We are in the middle of a global pandemic and it may not be the one you see on the news. Metabolic diseases like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar and obesity affect approximately 47 million Americans (1) and billions worldwide. Known as “silent killers” in the medical community, because most patients “feel fine” until they experience an unfortunate cardiovascular event such as a heart attack (myocardial infarction) or stroke (transient ischemic attack) for which there is zero warning.
So, what is this “silent killer” looming inside of your body, and how can you regain control of your health?Metabolic disease, also called dysmetabolic syndrome, syndrome X, metabolic disease or insulin resistance syndrome, includes a cluster of conditions:
High Blood Pressure
Abnormal Cholesterol (characterized by Low HDLs or High Triglycerides)
High Blood Sugar levels (while fasting)
When a person has a combination of three or more of these risk factors occurring simultaneously, he or she can be officially diagnosed as having “Metabolic Syndrome.”
In the majority of cases, the treatment of Metabolic Syndrome is completely contingent on the commitment of the person suffering. Physical activity, weight loss, and adopting a healthy diet are critical factors in preventing deeper health issues like heart attack or stroke (2).
Signs of Metabolic Disease
Though these may not be the only signs, these are the most visible metabolic disease attributes in men and women:
High Blood Pressure — 130/85 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) or higher
High Triglycerides — 150 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL), or 1.7 millimoles per liter (mmol/L), or higher of this type of fat found in the blood
Decreased HDLs (“good cholesterol”) — less than 40 mg/dL (1.04 mmol/L) in men or less than 50 mg/dL (1.3 mmol/L) in women of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol
Large waist — A waistline that measures at least 35 inches (89 centimeters) for women and 40 inches (102 centimeters) for men
Elevated Fasting Blood Sugar — 100 mg/dL (5.6 mmol/L) or higher
There are also factors beyond your control that may contribute to Metabolic Disease. (3)
Age — Metabolic syndrome risk increases with age, affecting 40 percent of people over 60.
Race — African Americans, Hispanics, and Asians appear to have a greater risk of metabolic syndrome than other races.
Family History of Diabetes — If you have a family history of type 2 diabetes or if you had diabetes during pregnancy, you are at higher risk.
“Let Food Be Thy Medicine” -Hippocrates
Perhaps the most famous physician of all time was onto something. When it comes to fighting metabolic disease or just maintaining overall health, it is essential to be mindful of what you put into your body. A diet consisting of real, quality foods will ensure that your body will function at its optimal level. The top 5 foods I suggest to help prevent and heal metabolic syndrome are:
1. Omega-3 Foods
The omega-3 found in wild, cold-water fish has been discovered to aid in regulating heartbeat, reducing blood pressure, and can even decrease the risk of blood clot formation. Research has also found that consumption of omega-3 rich foods like walnuts, flax-seeds and grass-fed beef can not only decrease the risk for heart attack and stroke (4). Omega-3 foods can also help reduce triglycerides and lower LDL cholesterol. And it’s not just the omega-3 found in fish that helps.
Vegetables should be a go-to for anyone looking to improve their health. Dark leafy greens like kale and spinach supply the body with key nutrients and antioxidants.
3. Whole Grains
Several studies have shown that diets enriched with whole grains improve metabolic function and protect from developing metabolic diseases. The direct impact of a whole-grain diet can be measured on several levels of metabolic functions, including a reduced glycemic index (5). Whole grain, high-fiber foods, like oatmeal, semolina, and sorghum have proven benefits for diabetes and heart health, but they also keep your waistline in check.
Again, just like vegetables, it’s not bad to add more fruit to your diet. These portable snacks are perfect for any time of the day and help beat the urge for the less healthy sugary treat. Remember to eat fruit in moderation due to its natural sugar!
One versatile fruit you may want to add to that list: Avocado. They have recently been clinically connected to lower metabolic syndrome in adults. (6)
Pomegranate and its seeds, in particular, have been shown to help alleviate metabolic syndrome. Research has concluded that pomegranate helps with insulin sensitivity, reduction of total cholesterol and has anti-inflammatory effects. (7)
Try to include legumes like peas, soybeans, peanuts, chickpeas, and lima beans. Rich in fiber and protein, legumes are an excellent daily choice for keeping blood sugar stable. They will help keep your waistline trim, and they’re useful in preventing metabolic syndrome. A 2014 study examined the effects of legumes on metabolic syndrome on 2,027 test subjects from the Isfahan Healthy Heart Program. Researchers found that “all MetS components were less prevalent among subjects with regular legume intake.” (8)
If you find yourself suffering from the traits often associated with a metabolic disorder, consider incorporating these five healing foods, along with avoiding processed food, soft drinks, alcohol and sugar which may help reduce, or even reverse, your case of Metabolic Disease. (9)