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Metabolic syndrome

Diabetes, Heart, Men's Health, Weight loss, Women's Health | April 14, 2018 | Author: Naturopath

heart, weight gain, diabetes

Metabolic syndrome

Metabolic syndrome is a group of conditions that increase your risk of developing heart disease, diabetes and stroke. Having high fats in the blood, high blood pressure, insulin resistance and being overweight are the main components involved in metabolic syndrome or syndrome X. A staggering amount of Australian’s (more than 35%) have metabolic syndrome. Fortunately, it can be easily prevented by eating a healthy diet, staying physically active and maintaining a healthy weight.

Metabolic syndrome criteria

Metabolic syndrome is not a disease itself but a cluster of disorders that increase your risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. To be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome you must have three or more of the following:

  • Raised blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Excess weight—especially around the abdomen
  • High blood triglycerides
  • Low levels of the “good” cholesterol (high density lipoproteins)
  • Diabetes or pre-diabetes


High blood pressure is a condition in which the force of the blood against the artery walls is too high. It causes the heart to work harder to pump blood around the body. The size of our blood vessels can help control our blood pressure, but they can become narrowed due to a build up of fatty plaques or chronic stress.
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Being overweight or obese is a risk factor for metabolic syndrome—particularly if the weight is distributed around the abdomen and upper body (central obesity). This puts extra pressure on vital organs and significantly increases your risk of cardiovascular disease. A good way to determine your risk is by measuring your waist circumference. As a general rule, if your waist measures 90-94cm or more for men or 80cm or more for women you probably need to lose some weight.
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Cholesterol and triglycerides

An important measure of heart health, cholesterol and triglycerides are types of fats or lipids which can accumulate in the blood. Cholesterol is naturally produced by the liver and is used to build and maintain cells.
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Triglycerides store unused calories and provide your body with energy. Although these functions are beneficial, when you have excess amounts of these lipids there are detrimental effects to your health.

LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol is the ‘bad’ form because:

  • It can form plaques in the arteries and contribute to arteriosclerosis
  • Higher levels reflect an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and are usually seen in metabolic syndrome

HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol is the ‘good’ version because:

  • It helps to remove excess cholesterol from plaques in the arteries
  • Lower levels reflect a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and are usually seen in metabolic syndrome
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High blood sugars

Having an elevated fasting blood sugar level is a risk factor for metabolic syndrome. In prediabetes blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be called diabetes. This puts a person at significant risk of developing diabetes unless drastic lifestyle changes are made.

Insulin resistance is another factor that can alter blood sugars. It occurs when your body doesn’t use the hormone insulin effectively.
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When we eat carbohydrates, our body produces insulin to move sugar into our cells to be used as energy. When a person has insulin resistance, the pancreas needs to produce and release more insulin than usual to maintain normal blood glucose levels. Insulin resistance increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes and is found in most people with this form of diabetes. If the pancreas can’t produce extra insulin to overcome your body’s resistance, your blood glucose levels will rise and you will develop impaired fasting glucose, impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) or diabetes.
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How to overcome metabolic syndrome

Metabolic syndrome is driven by inflammation, obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, poor diet and insulin resistance. Exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet and keeping within the healthy weight range will help prevent the onset of metabolic syndrome and its complications such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Changing your diet

To reduce blood pressure, avoid excess sodium (salt) in the diet. Sodium is usually found in high concentrations in processed foods and takeaway meals. It can even be found in seemingly healthy foods such as soups and bread. When purchasing foods look for items with a low sodium content and avoid adding salt to foods when cooking.

For blood sugar and cholesterol maintenance you should also be reducing your intake of sugar and saturated fat.

If weight loss needs to occur, reduce your portion sizes and eat a Mediterranean or low GI diet. These are ways of eating that have been proven beneficial in reducing blood pressure, cholesterol, weight, and triglycerides. These diets incorporate healthy oils such as olive oil, fish, wholegrains, fresh fruit and vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, spices, herbs, and legumes. Eat poultry, eggs, cheese and yoghurt in moderation and rarely eat red meat. Drink red wine in moderation and avoid smoking cigarettes.
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Regular physical activity is crucial to reduce stress, decrease blood pressure, assist weight loss, decrease blood lipids and maintain healthy blood sugars. Try to avoid prolonged periods of sitting and aim for at least 30 minutes of continuous exercise such as walking or cycling each day.

Stress management

Chronic levels of stress have a significant impact on our health. If left untreated it can raise blood pressure levels, prevent weight loss and result in poor dietary choices.

Find ways to implement relaxation techniques, read a book or incorporate times during the week for exercises such as tai chi or yoga.

Supplements to help

If you need extra assistance here is a quick guide to supplements that are useful in the following areas:

Maintaining healthy blood sugars: key nutrients indicated here are B vitamins, lipoic acid, chromium, magnesium, gymnema and cinnamon

Reducing high blood pressure: nutrients with proven efficacy include L-arginine, aged garlic, co-enzyme Q10 potassium

Reducing cholesterol levels: consider taking beta-glucan, psyllium husks, citrus bioflavonoids, vitamin E or plant sterols

Weight loss: boost your metabolism with green coffee bean, green tea, cocoa and sweet pepper

Stress management: supplements usually prescribed to reduce anxiety include magnesium, B vitamins, withania, passionflower and chamomile

Caution: If you are already on medications you will need to consult your health practitioner before commencing any of the suggested supplements.

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Amihăesei IC, et al. Metabolic syndrome a widespread threatening condition; risk factors, diagnostic criteria, therapeutic options, prevention and controversies: an overview. Rev Med Chir Soc Med Nat Iasi. 2014 Oct-Dec;118(4):896-900


Nahas RMoher M. Complementary and alternative medicine for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. Can Fam Physician. 2009 Jun;55(6):591-6


Sirtori CR, et al. Nutraceuticals for blood pressure control. Ann Med. 2015;47(6):447-56


Chen G, et al. Nutraceuticals and functional foods in the management of hyperlipidemia. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2014;54(9):1180-201


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