Metabolic syndrome, sometimes called Syndrome X, is a cluster of risk factors that can raise your chance for heart disease, diabetes and stroke. And it’s becoming a major problem among African-Americans, especially women.

Having even one of the risk factors for metabolic syndrome isn’t ideal, but it takes three or more for an official diagnosis.

Your risk increases with the number of risk factors, which include:

  • Being overweight, especially around the midsection.
  • High blood pressure or being on medicine for high blood pressure.
  • High blood sugar or being on medicine for high blood sugar.
  • High triglycerides (a type of fat in the blood) or being on medicine for high triglycerides.
  • Low good cholesterol (HDL) or being on medicine for low HDL.

Race may play a part

African-Americans are at particularly high risk for metabolic syndrome:

  • More than 40 percent of U.S. blacks have high blood pressure. That’s among the highest of any group in the world.
  • More than 63 percent of African-American men and 77 percent of African-American women are overweight.

5 million African-Americans have diabetes. Certain factors can increase your chances for metabolic syndrome.

These include:

  • Age: As you age, your risk increases.
  • A family history of metabolic syndrome.
  • Lack of exercise.

Divide and conquer your risks

Making changes to the way you live may help prevent some of the risk factors from developing. Even if it doesn’t prevent or help reverse metabolic syndrome, you’ll still be taking positive steps to improve your health.

Your first step is to learn your numbers – cholesterol, blood pressure, weight and blood sugar. Then work with your doctor to keep them where they should be. This may require medicine and some changes in your lifestyle.

Good old-fashioned advice that helps keep you healthier in general also will help prevent or improve metabolic syndrome:

  • Eat healthy. Your doctor can help with specific diet recommendations.
  • Lose some weight.
  • Exercise and be more active throughout the day. Research has found that people who regularly exercise reduce their risk of chronic health problems, including Type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer.
  • Don’t smoke.

Finding out you’re at risk of metabolic syndrome can be a wake-up call to come up with a better formula for healthy living.

Dr. Evette Kingcaid is a board-certified Family Medicine physician at Kelsey-Seybold’s Summer Creek Clinic in Humble. For an appointment, call 713-442-0000.

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