You May Be At-Risk for Metabolic Syndrome (And Not Know It)

Have you ever looked at a thin person and thought, "wow, they're healthy!"? Or looked at someone heavier and decided they're not? If we're honest, we've all done it. But this dangerous judgment means you, or someone you love, may be at-risk for metabolic syndrome and not know it.  

Appearances lie.

I'm not talking about the Photoshop kind of deceit that's commonplace these days. No, this truth is far more critical than that. Despite what we do so instinctively, we can't determine sickness or health by external appearances.

Yes, there are visual signs of some of our health story. We see the tell-tale wrinkles of a smoker, bald heads of cancer patients, and dark circles under the eyes of a sleep deprived new mother. But just as often, we miss the rest of the story that's lurking beneath our skin.  

It's easy to be seduced into believing that skinny = healthy and fat = sick. But this is far from true. I've worked with "skinny" people who are unhealthy and "heavy" people who are not. 

I was first introduced to the term "skinny fat" as a nutrition coach at LifeTime Athletic. We offered a health screening that allowed members to know their inner health story with a simple blood test. It was shocking how often thin, seemingly fit women had elevations in their blood panels. The numbers didn't match the external assumptions.

Currently, I'm a health coach for a company that specializes in helping employees who are at-risk for metabolic syndrome and other serious health complications. Once again, we use blood work to uncover the state of their health. As a coach, I work with them to prevent or reverse their symptoms through lifestyle changes that include modifying their nutrition, fitness, stress, and sleep.

The results are astounding!

In just four months, over 80% of members reverse at least one of the five factors that qualify them for the program. During the year we work together, they continue to establish better health through healthier habits. 

Are you at risk for metabolic syndrome?

Here are the five ways to know if you're at-risk for metabolic syndrome:

  1. Elevated Blood Sugar -  normal, fasted blood sugar levels are generally 99 or lower. If you have elevated blood sugars, you should also consider checking your A1c, which is a three month blood sugar average and more accurate than a single blood sugar test. 
  2. Elevated Blood Pressure - readings above 130/85 are above normal range. If either number is elevated, you may be diagnosed with hypertension.
  3. Elevated Triglycerides - in simplest terms, triglycerides are the free floating fat in your blood stream. When this number is elevated you are at higher risk for this fat collecting around major organs and arteries. 
  4. Elevated BMI - though BMI is somewhat controversial, it's still a benchmark used to determine obesity levels and at-risk health issues. Of particular concern is the excess fat that collects around the mid-section.
  5. Low HDL  - this is the good cholesterol in your body. HDL carries the "bad" away from the arteries where build-up could be devastating. For women, low HDL is any reading below 50 and for men it's below 40.

The chart below summarizes these factors more succinctly. Note that it's the combination of 3 or more that puts you at-risk for metabolic syndrome

** Please note that I am NOT a medical professional or doctor. If you have any questions or concerns about this, please consult your primary care doctor for further information and next steps.

You can't judge a book by it's cover.

Yet, we do. To others and to ourselves. The danger is that we may be harboring risk factors for metabolic syndrome if we don't know what's going on inside our body.

It's important to check in annually with your doctor and ask for a basic blood test to assess your risk factors. Knowing your numbers could save your life!

The great news about metabolic syndrome is that it can be prevented, and even reversed, with lifestyle changes. I see it happen every day.

The most rewarding part of my job is getting a member's new blood work back at their 4 month re-check. When I see how much has changed in such a short time, I literally throw my hands in the air and pump them with excitement above my head. Goosebumps envelop me as I cheer and audibly shout, "yes, yes, yes!!" Fortunately, I work from home so I only embarrass my pets. 

see the changes that happen beyond the scale or a pants size. I know they are healthier. And I celebrate what this means for their future.

This awareness has changed my perspective on what it means to be healthy.

If I attributed "success" to only a number on the scale, the results would be disappointing sometimes. Most often, members do lose weight, but sometimes it's not very much. When I show them how much has changed on the inside, they are far more likely to continue building healthier habits in the months and years ahead. The weight loss often follows.

We all like to see results. I get it. Getting healthy is hard work and we want to see the reward for our efforts. If we get stuck on external appearances and a three-digit number from a fickle box on our bathroom floor, however, we miss the most crucial changes that impact our true health. And our life.

The next time you look in the mirror, look deeper. Consider whether you are seeing a healthy you or not. If you don't know, then it's time to find out.

Your life is at stake.  


Question:  Have you ever gotten biometric results that have led you to adopt new behaviors?

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