New year … fresh start!

New year … fresh start!

Make a fresh start to your life! The right time could be any time, any day, but the new year is traditionally considered “the right time”.

According to a study conducted by The University of Scranton, just 8% of people achieve their new year’s goals, while around 80% fail to keep their new year’s resolutions.

Kerry J. Stewart, a cardiology researcher at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, wrote a few years ago in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine that regular exercise “melts” metabolic syndrome risk factors, so if you want to live longer, start exercising regularly and melt fat away.

Metabolic syndrome is not a disease, but it is a cluster of risk factors which are disorders of the body’s metabolism. It is a complex pathophysiologic state that originates primarily from an imbalance of calorie intake and energy expenditure but is also affected by the genetic/epigenetic makeup of the individual, predominance of sedentary lifestyle over physical activity, and other factors such as quality and composition of food and of gut microbes. No single remedy can be prescribed for its eradication or even curtailment.

Metabolic syndrome has become one of the major public-health challenges worldwide. 

Doctors can diagnose metabolic syndrome with a tape measure and a few simple blood tests.

According to the American National Cholesterol Education Programme guidelines you have metabolic syndrome if you have three or more of the following traits:
■ Abdominal obesity
■ High triglyceride levels
■ High blood pressure
■ High fasting blood sugar level
■ Low levels of HDL (high-density lipoprotein cholesterol) – the “good” cholesterol
■ Increased levels of C-reactive protein

All of these make it more likely for diabetes, heart disease, stroke to develop and … early death.

When one component of metabolic syndrome is present, it means it is more likely to have other components of the syndrome and the more components a person has, the greater the risks to health.

Sometimes the whole is really greater than the sum of its parts and such is the case with metabolic syndrome. Each of these disorders is by itself a risk factor for other diseases, but, in combination, they dramatically boost the chances of developing potentially life-threatening illnesses.

Several studies support what doctors have suspected for years.

This syndrome is common, and it is becoming more prevalent. The good news is that if you are given advance notice, you can do something about it.

Partly because of these increasing numbers, doctors have defined the syndrome more clearly and developed guidelines for diagnosing it. Finding that you have metabolic syndrome gives you the opportunity to make aggressive lifestyle changes today that can delay or derail the development of serious diseases.

One study showed that men with three factors of metabolic syndrome are nearly twice as likely to have a heart attack or stroke and more than three times at risk of developing heart disease than those with none. Also, men with four or five factors of the syndrome have nearly four times the risk of heart attack or stroke and more than 24 times the risk of diabetes.

The prevalence of metabolic syndrome increases with age, affecting less than 10% of people in their 20s and 40% of people in their 60s.

Studies have shown that exercise works to reduce body fat, especially fat around the waistline, which is one of the risk factors for metabolic syndrome. It also helps with heart disease factors such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Exercise will reduce total and abdominal obesity and increase lean body mass for men and women alike. Older people can benefit greatly from exercise, to reduce their risk for developing metabolic syndrome.

If you only have one or two components of metabolic syndrome or, better yet, none, you can make lifestyle changes now to prevent the onset of the syndrome and the serious diseases it predicts.

Lose weight: Losing as little as 5 to 10% of body weight can reduce insulin levels and high blood pressure, decreasing the risk of diabetes.

Commit to a healthy diet: Eat fibre-rich foods, plenty of fruits and vegetables. Avoid processed or deep-fried dinners. Eliminate table salt and experiment with other herbs and spices.

Exercise! Get moving! Walk briskly just 30 minutes each day or engage in any other moderately strenuous activity most days of the week.

Stop smoking: Smoking cigarettes increases insulin resistance and worsens the health consequences of metabolic syndrome.

Schedule regular check-ups: Check your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels on a regular basis. Make additional lifestyle modifications if the numbers are going the wrong way.

Does this give you an idea for your new year resolutions? Then do it and do it through the whole year, so that you can still enjoy many more happy new years in the best possible health conditions. It is not only “fate”. A lot depends on your own decisions.

Save your life and your money by making healthy lifestyle changes!

Wishing you all a healthy “responsible” 2020!

Dra. Maria Alice

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Dr Maria Alice is a consultant in General and Family Medicine. General Manager/Medical Director – Luzdoc International Medical Service. Medical Director – Grupo Hospital Particular do Algarve/ Hospital S. Gonçalo de Lagos