What happened to syndrome X?

A few years ago, the enigmatic name of syndrome X was given to the set of metabolic alterations that increased the risk of heart disease, or even death. The described alterations included arterial hypertension, abdominal obesity, insulin resistance and chronic inflammation.

As the risk of confusing it with another disease called X chromosome syndrome was somewhat feasible, in 1998 the World Health Organization (WHO) renamed it metabolic syndrome. And three years later, less invasive criteria for its detection were released.

The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) subsequently updated these criteria, stipulating that metabolic syndrome be diagnosed if three of the following five criteria were met:

  1. Presence of accumulated fat in the arteries that increases the probability of obstruction, specifically a triglyceride level greater than 150 mg/dL.

  2. Lowering high-density (HDL) cholesterol, or “good” cholesterol, so called because it helps the body remove other forms of cholesterol from the bloodstream. Specifically, worrying levels would be below 40 mg/dL in men and 50 mg/dL in women.

  3. Elevated blood pressure (systolic pressure greater than 130 mmHg and diastolic pressure above 85 mmHg).

  4. Increased fasting glucose (hyperglycemia) above 100 mg/dL, which can damage blood vessels that supply blood to vital organs.

  5. Presence of abdominal obesity, measured by waist circumference. It is related to visceral fat deposits and stands out as a higher risk factor for generating metabolic and clinical complications in the adult population. But it is also beginning to appear at worrying levels in the child population. In the European population, values ​​above 94 cm in men and 80 cm in women are considered risk. In the Asian and Latino population, the limits are 90 cm in men and 80 cm in women.

How to avoid falling into the networks of metabolic syndrome

There are four basic recommendations that can help keep metabolic syndrome away (or reverse it, if we already have it).

The first is none other than choosing healthy foods. The Mediterranean diet is an excellent option, as it increases the consumption of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes that are high in fiber and micronutrients. It is convenient to choose vegetable-type fats, in addition to moderating the consumption of red or processed meats, sugary drinks, refined cereals, salt, sugar and alcohol.

Secondly, we must avoid smoking, since tobacco induces hyperglycemia and insulin resistance, while raising triglyceride levels and reducing good cholesterol.

Physical activity is another fundamental protective factor, since it decreases body fat and improves physical condition, as well as the ability to provide oxygen to the muscles. In addition, it decreases the risk of chronic diseases, reduces blood pressure, decreases alterations in blood lipids and improves insulin resistance.

How much exercise? If we pay attention to the WHO, it would be convenient to carry out between 150 and 300 weekly minutes of intense or moderate activities. It is enough to travel by bicycle instead of using the car, dance or practice other exercises through digital platforms or swim three times a week.

The fourth element to consider is stress. Activities in the workplace have been shown to have a greater association with the prevalence of the syndrome, followed by emotional stress and daily events. To contain it we can try to take long and deep breaths, get enough sleep and adjust schedules realistically.

Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory foods

Incorporating foods with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties into your diet helps prevent metabolic syndrome. Specifically, there are studies that confirm that the polyphenols present in olives and olive oil help control blood pressure, as well as glucose and blood lipid levels.

Another interesting ingredient is onion, rich in a flavonoid called quercetin that has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and cardioprotective properties, also helping to combat metabolic syndrome.

As for aromatic herbs, it has been proven that the carvacrol present in oregano and thyme can help us stop diabetes by preventing glucose from rising.

Another widely recommended food is garlic, which contains antioxidant organosulfur compounds that reduce hypercholesterolemia and hyperglycemia.

For its part, the consumption of fiber –from whole grains, vegetables, fruits and legumes– contributes to improving the gut microbiota, glucose regulation, lipid profile, blood pressure and keeping inflammatory markers at bay.

What is clear is that, with regard to metabolic syndrome, it is not necessary to worry but to take care and take action. Although sometimes it helps to reduce it to follow a pharmacological treatment prescribed by the specialist to lower glucose (atorvastatin, pravastatin…) and blood fats (atorvastatin, pravastatin, bezafibrate, fenofibrate…), what gives better results is to make changes in the Lifestyle.

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