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Taking an Integrative Approach to Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic syndrome is a common condition that can go undiagnosed because it does not necessarily cause any symptoms, but can lead to other very serious health conditions. Metabolic syndrome is defined by its five components: high blood pressure, elevated fasting blood sugar, low HDL cholesterol, high Triglycerides and increased abdominal circumference. These factors increase the risk of many common issues, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke.

The best way to check whether you have any of the components of metabolic syndrome is to establish care with a primary care provider. At a routine physical, your doctor can check your blood pressure and order lab work to measure blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

One component that you can check at home is abdominal circumference. According to the Mayo Clinic, abdominal circumference measured around the waistline should be less than 35 inches for women and 45 inches for men. If your abdominal circumference is higher than recommended, it is advised to see a physician to check for the other components.

Integrative medicine is a style of care that focuses on treating the root cause of illness and offers several approaches that can combat and even reverse metabolic syndrome. Diet is a crucial factor in the treatment of metabolic syndrome. A Mediterranean-type diet, with a focus on high-fiber, low-glycemic foods such as vegetables and healthy fats, has been shown to help reduce the five factors. Specific foods, such as blueberries, can also be beneficial. Blueberries are rich in phenolic compounds and anthocyanins, compounds that can lower blood pressure and help improve blood cholesterol profiles.

Regular exercise is another important step in fighting metabolic syndrome. Exercise can help maintain a healthy body weight, but it is also a great way to relieve stress, increase energy and promote healthy sleep patterns.

There are also several supplements and botanicals that have been successful in reducing the five factors of metabolic syndrome. Magnesium, for example, aids in regulating insulin action. Ginseng and green tea have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant effects that have proven helpful against metabolic syndrome. Apple cider vinegar has been shown to decrease glucose levels after a meal. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to improve cholesterol levels. Alpha-lipoic acid is a powerful antioxidant that helps combat the inflammation caused by metabolic syndrome. Milk thistle has been shown to help with liver function, which is crucial for glucose and lipid metabolism.

Before starting any supplement, diet change or exercise routine, it is recommended that you discuss these changes with your doctor. These supplements and lifestyle changes might not be right for everyone, but they provide non-invasive, non-pharmaceutical options to treat metabolic syndrome before it leads to more serious issues. If you are worried that you might be at risk of developing metabolic syndrome, I strongly encourage you to make an appointment with a primary care provider who can help you develop a plan to improve your health. FBN

By Rebecca Miller, M.D.

Rebecca Miller, M.D., is a physician at Flagstaff Family Care, which has offices in Sedona and Flagstaff. For more information, call 928-527-4325, or schedule an appointment online at FlagFamilyCare.com. 

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