Here is a term you have probably heard of already. It has been in the news (health news) for many years now and it is certainly a key health risk concept. But do we all understand it?

Before we get into this let us say that the science here is quite complex, still evolving (experts learn more all the time), and a bit controversial (carbs, banting, fat shaming, etc.) in some areas. So, what we are going to do here is outline a simple mainstream approach that favours simplicity and “big picture” learnings over exhaustive or excessive detail. By all means research the topic further where you wish to and indeed, we always encourage self-learning in this way.

Metabolic syndrome refers to a combination of issues centring around the abnormal and unhealthy metabolism of carbohydrates and sugars. It seems that the problems begin with excessive eating, in particular the excessive eating of sugars and refined carbohydrates (mainly white flour products). This leads to weight gain and abdominal obesity (big tummy), which is often associated (in ways science is still learning about) with resistance to the (normal and healthy) effects of natural insulin. Normally, insulin helps your body to move sugars from the bloodstream to cells, for use as life-fuel. This “insulin resistance” is really the central feature of metabolic syndrome. Insulin resistance and or metabolic syndrome can lead to raised blood sugar (the key sign), diabetes, high blood pressure, an unhealthy lipid (cholesterol) profile, and a really large increase in cardiovascular risk (risk of heart disease and stroke).

Genetics and family history do seem to play some role here, but most of the risk is lifestyle, so it can be managed. By you. If you want to make changes. It comes down to staying slim and active but crucially it also involves checking blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar regularly. Some advocate low carb and even no-carb diets but this advice remains controversial, with most experts suggesting controlled-calorie balanced diets that incorporate all food-types.

Established metabolic syndrome often leads to diabetes and the associated health risks, but the process can be reversed or slowed through good lifestyle choices and sometimes, medications.

If a long and active life is your goal, avoiding metabolic syndrome by staying slim and active while eating well and having regular health check-ups, is arguably the most valuable thing you can focus on (competing opportunities for major positive impact would include quitting smoking, managing drugs & alcohol better, and making smart decisions about things like driving, seatbelts, etc.). Unfortunately, the choices most of us make, suggest that while we want “long and active”, we are actually heading for “shorter and unwell”…your life, your choices, of course…