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Metabolic Syndrome: Are you at risk?

Metabolic Syndrome (also called Syndrome X) has become one of the most widely talked about health conditions in recent years.  Although it’s only been identified in the past 20 years, according to the American Heart Association, nearly 1 out of every 6 Americans have it (that’s about 47 million people).  That statistic is a little lower than the National Institutes of Health estimate which is 25% of Americans.  But why it is getting so much press lately is because it is being shown to double your risk of heart disease, heart attacks and strokes.  It also increases your risk of diabetes by 5 times.  Metabolic syndrome is not really a disease by itself but a collection of unhealthy risk factors.  According to the American Heart Association and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, there are 5 risk factors that make up metabolic syndrome:

  • Large Waist Size – For men, this means a waist of 40 inches or more.  For women, a waist of 35 inches or more.
  • High TriglyceridesEither 150 mg/dL or higher or using a cholesterol medicine
  • Low Good CholesterolEither less than 40 mg/dL for men and less than 50 mg/dL for women or using a cholesterol medicine
  • High Blood PressureEither having blood pressure of 130/85 mm Hg or greater or using a high blood pressure medicine.
  • Elevated Fasting Blood Glucose – Having a fasting blood glucose level of 100 mg/dL or higher

To be diagnosed with Metabolic Syndrome you need to have at least 3 of these factors.

Metabolic Syndrome is becoming more widely diagnosed, but the good news is it can be easily controlled with lifestyle changes.  In fact, one 2005 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine showed how well lifestyle changes could prevent metabolic syndrome.  Researchers looked at more than 3,200 people who already had impaired glucose tolerance, a pre-diabetic state.  One group was instructed to make lifestyle changes. They exercised 2.5 hours a week and ate a low-calorie, low-fat diet.  After three years, people in the lifestyle group were 41% less likely to have metabolic syndrome than those who got no treatment.  The lifestyle changes were also about twice as effective as using a diabetes medicine, Glucophage.

Experts say you prevent and treat metabolic syndrome the same way.  Here are the primary ways that it is treated:

  • Exercise. Start slowly. The American Heart Association recommends, if possible, that you gradually step up to exercising on most days of the week for 30-60 minutes.  Exercise such as walking daily even in the absence of significant weight loss may normalize triglycerides.
  • Eat a healthy dietYou should follow a heart-healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables and few saturated fats, trans fat, cholesterol, and salt.
  • Get a good night’s sleep.  Emerging evidence indicates that individuals who sleep fewer than six hours per night may face an increased risk of metabolic syndrome.
  • Lose weight if you’re overweight. In order to prevent metabolic syndrome, it’s important to maintain a body mass index (BMI) lower than 25.  Women should maintain a waist measurement of less than 35 inches, while men should aim for a waist measurement of less than 40 inches.  For those with elevated blood glucose weight loss may not only return the sugar to normal levels, but in the Diabetes Prevention Study in individuals with slight elevations of blood sugar and a family history of diabetes, 20 pounds of weight loss decreased the risk for developing diabetes by 60 percent.
  • Quit smoking if you smoke — now.
  • Schedule regular checkups with your doctor. Since metabolic syndrome doesn’t have symptoms, you need regular doctor visits to check your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar.  However, research is showing that diet and lifestyle changes are more effective in reversing the condition than taking multiple medications.

Your diet is one of the most important factors in treating Metabolic Syndrome so here are some dietary recommendations:

  • Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables
  • Eat whole grains (rather than refined grains, like white rice and white bread)
  • Eat foods low in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol
  • If you eat dairy, choose fat-free or low-fat dairy products
  • Have a low intake of salty foods
  • Eat few foods and beverages with added sugar

There are also some natural substances you can take that have shown positive results in improving metabolic syndrome.

Antioxidants

In a 2009 study of 374 adults, researchers found that consumption of carotenoids (a type of antioxidant found in fruits and vegetables) may help improve certain risk factors involved in metabolic syndrome. For instance, higher carotenoid intake was linked to smaller waistlines, less belly fat, and lower levels of triglycerides.  Carotenoids are naturally abundant in a number of foods, including spinach, sweet potato, red peppers, tomatoes, kale, pumpkin, carrots, papaya, and collards.

Grape Seed Extract

In a small study published in 2009, four weeks of treatment with grape seed extract appeared to decrease blood pressure in people with metabolic syndrome.  However, there were no significant changes in cholesterol levels.

Kudzu

The herb kudzu shows promise in metabolic syndrome treatment, according to preliminary research published in 2009. In tests on rats with metabolic syndrome, scientists discovered that kudzu-fed animals experienced less weight gain and had healthier levels of blood pressure, insulin, and cholesterol after two months (compared to animals that weren’t fed kudzu).

Basically, what metabolic syndrome comes down to is it is the result of an unhealthy lifestyle.  Poor diet, lack of exercise, smoking, and stress eventually has an effect on your body.  The only way it  can be remedied is to change your lifestyle and diet to adapt more healthy habits.

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Apple Cider Vinegar: A Health Remedy

Apple cider vinegar is one of the most popular health remedies in use today.  It has been used since ancient times as a remedy for many different ailments, and even Hippocrates is said to have used it as an antibiotic.  In fact, apple cider vinegar is an effective natural bacteria-fighting agent that contains many minerals and trace elements that are vital for a healthy body.  Natural apple cider vinegar is made by crushing freshly grown apples and allowing them to mature in wooden barrels.  This boosts the natural fermentation qualities of the crushed apples.  This differs from the refined and distilled vinegars found in supermarkets.  When the vinegar is mature, it contains a dark, cloudy, web-like bacterial foam called mother, which becomes visible when the rich brownish liquid is held to the light.  Natural vinegars that contain the mother have enzymes and minerals that other vinegars in grocery stores may not have due to over-processing, over-heating, and filtration.  For this reason, it is recommended that you purchase only natural apple cider vinegar, with an ideal acidity (pH) level of 5 to 7.

Ways to Use Apple Cider Vinegar

Weight Loss

Many people claim that apple cider vinegar promotes weight loss. Some theories suggest that it helps to speed up the metabolism, while others suggest that it burns calories. A number of nutritionists also believe that combining Vitamin B6 and Lecithin with Apple Cider Vinegar is highly effective for weight loss. A suggested remedy is to mix 2 teaspoons of Apple Cider Vinegar mixed with a glass of water and drink this before every meal or sip it slowly throughout the day.  Others like to use it in salad dressings or drink a tablespoon diluted in a glass of water once or twice per day.

Dandruff

Apple cider vinegar is said to treat dandruff by destroying the fungus Malassezia furfur and restoring the pH balance of the scalp. Some people recommend applying a 50/50 mixture of water and vinegar, applying it to the scalp, and leaving it to dry. Others suggest applying a couple of tablespoons of straight vinegar to the scalp and leaving it on for an hour or two before rinsing.

Warts

A reported treatment for warts is to soak the affected area for 20 minutes per day in a 50/50 mixture of vinegar and water.

Bad Breath

Due to its acidic properties, apple cider vinegar is a wonderful remedy for bad breath or halitosis.  Add ½ tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to a cup of water and gargle the mixture in your mouth for 10 seconds at a time until the cup is empty.

Body Odor

Apple cider vinegar is an effective body odor remedy, since it can help adjust the skin’s pH level which helps to eliminate odor-causing bacteria.  For armpit odor, wipe them once each morning with undiluted apple cider vinegar.  For foot odor, fill a pan with arm water and add 1/3 cup of apple cider vinegar, then let your feet soak for 15 minutes once a week.

Sunburn

A bath of apple cider vinegar is said to reduce the effects of sunburn.  The vinegar soaked on a cloth and applied to the sunburned areas may also be helpful.

Acne

Apple cider vinegar is a natural cure for acne.  When diluted with water 50/50 it is often used as a toner for the face.  Be very careful when applying it to your face because apple cider vinegar is dangerous to the eyes.

Age Spots

Apple cider vinegar contains sulfur that fights the effects of aging.  Finely chop or blend an onion, and use a strainer or cheese cloth to squeeze and extract the onion juice.  Take one part of apple cider vinegar and one part of onion juice and mix them together.  Dab a cotton pad into the solution and apply it directly to the age spots.  Leave this on the skin for a minimum of 30 minutes or as long as you are comfortable with it.  Repeat this once a day for approximately 6 weeks.  If the spots haven’t completely disappeared after the 6 weeks but have started to fade, keep repeating the process until they do.

Constipation

Apple cider vinegar assists with natural bowel movements since it contains significant amounts of pectin, which is a water-soluble fiber that helps to improve digestion by normalizing the acid levels in the stomach.  For constipation, add 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar into an 8 oz glass of water, and drink this 3 times a day.  The vinegar can also be mixed with apple or grape juice to help with the taste.

Diarrhea

Apple cider vinegar is a good remedy for diarrhea since the high pectin concentration acts as a protective coating which soothes the irritated lining of the colon.  As with the constipation remedy, add 2 tablespoons of vinegar to a glass of water, and drink this 3 times daily while symptoms persist.

Cholesterol

Drinking a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar a day with a little honey helps to lower cholesterol.

High Blood Pressure

A teaspoon of cider vinegar in a glass of water per day is said to lower blood pressure.

Diabetes

Apple cider vinegar may help to control high blood sugar levels.  Take 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar and add a pinch of salt to it.  Mix it in a glass of water, and drink it before every large meal.

What to Look for When Buying Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar can be found in almost any health or nutrition store.  Look for it with a pH level of 5 to 7.  Apple cider vinegar can also be found in a capsule form.

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