Are You At Risk for Premature Aging?

What do diabetes, heart disease, cancer, pre-mature aging, heart disease, arthritis, osteoporosis, diabetic neuropathy, optic nerve damage, and stroke all have in common? In addition to taking million of lives each year, these grave conditions all have a common forerunner that frequently paves their way: Metabolic syndrome.

Metabolic syndrome is not a disease per se, but rather a combination of symptoms, which when appearing together often are precursors to one or more of that long, long list of chronic diseases.

Metabolic syndrome is a strikingly common health concern in the United States. Experts estimate that about 1 in every 4 or 24% of adults in the United States is afflicted, and the number is on the rise. Among older adults aged 60–69 years, metabolic syndrome is found in 44%, almost half. Most people with metabolic syndrome are not even aware of it. It’s important to understand metabolic syndrome, as it offers some insights into how to prevent diabetes and some of the other chronic diseases that remain the largest killers of our time.

Are You At Risk for Metabolic Syndrome?

If you have several of the following symptoms, you could be at risk for metabolic syndrome:

Abdominal obesity

High cholesterol (low HDL, high LDL)

High triglycerides

High blood pressure

Low levels of DHEA

High cortisol levels (a stress hormone)

Insulin resistance

If you have three or more of these preconditions, you would be considered to have metabolic syndrome. In addition, chronic depression along with two of the above symptoms could be an indication of metabolic syndrome.

Metabolic Syndrome Is a Warning Signal

The term “metabolic syndrome” was first coined back in the 1950’s, when doctors noticed the alarming frequency with which all these conditions were diagnosed in patients.

The long list of ills associated with metabolic syndrome—ranging from obesity to insulin resistance, and their side effects—are plenty in and of themselves for those afflicted with the syndrome to worry about. However, once metabolic syndrome develops, increasingly serious conditions such as diabetes, polycystic ovarian syndrome, liver disease, heart disease, and stroke, are often not far behind.

Insulin resistance is the most destructive of the pack, because it promotes the above conditions. Insulin plays a vital part by converting sugars (glucose) into fuel for the body. Insulin is a hormone carrier that transports nutrients and glucose in the blood and binds them to cellular receptor sites. Extra padding in the abdominal region prevents the body from properly utilizing insulin; as a result glucose begins to build up in the blood, which causes glycation-damage to internal organs and blood vessels. (Glycation can be visualized as the browning of a cut apple and in your body it promotes accelerated aging.) The pancreas works on overdrive to compensate, but blood glucose levels still rise. The result is considered to be pre-diabetes; people with insulin are very close to becoming diabetic.

How to Prevent Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome

Although the transition from pre-diabetes to diabetes is not inevitable, it occurs with unfortunate frequency, usually within 10 years. Pre-diabetes raises the risk of heart disease and stroke even if you are not yet diabetic. Controlling blood sugar and leptin levels through life style modification is the key to halt the progression of pre-diabetes.

Fortunately, pre-diabetic conditions respond extremely well to lifestyle interventions. There are numerous lifestyle modifications that can be taken, regardless of what stage in the process you are dealing with. For example, studies on metabolic syndrome have shown that slimming down by a mere 5 to 7% of your total body weight can stop the course of the condition and even reverse it.

Lifestyle changes that help you lose weight and normalize blood sugar are among the most useful to help prevent diabetes. This includes full-spectrum health practices, such as yoga and other forms of exercise, nutritional supplements, a low glycemic/low glucose load diet, meditation, and stress reduction. The good news is that such lifestyle changes will not just help you prevent diabetes or other chronic diseases, but will improve your overall well-being and longevity.