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Thank you for subscribing to Heart Health, an Avera eNewsletter that provides you with useful information about cardiac care and prevention. We believe a healthy lifestyle starts with a strong heart. To learn more about our services and community events, or to find a physician, visit www.Avera.org.

To your health,

The Avera Staff


Metabolic syndrome is a group of risk factors that together can triple your risk for heart disease. While it's a very serious condition to have, it can be prevented or managed through lifestyle changes, such as increasing exercise and improving diet.

Your doctor can tell you if you have metabolic syndrome by taking your measurements and running a few tests. People with metabolic syndrome have at least three of the following signs:

  • Large waist circumference: 40 inches or more for men, 35 inches or more for women
  • Triglycerides equal to or higher than 150 mg/dL*
  • Low HDL cholesterol: under 40 mg/dL for men, under 50 mg/dL for women
  • Blood pressure equal to or higher than 130/85 mmHg
  • Fasting blood sugar (glucose) equal to or higher than 100 mg/dL

Losing weight, especially from the abdomen, is an important step in preventing metabolic syndrome, says Registered Dietitian Joanne Shearer, Food and Nutrition Services director at Avera Heart Hospital. Overall food intake is critically important, so that means watching portion sizes and controlling calories.

"The number-one strategy in doing that is to cut out processed carbohydrates," Joanne recommends. "For people with metabolic syndrome, the problem with those processed carbohydrates, such as white flour, sugar and white rice, is that they lack fiber."

Joanne suggests purging your pantry of those foods and replacing them with whole grains. She also says to avoid processed meats, such as hot dogs and lunch meats. Begin replacing those foods with healthier proteins, such as chicken, beans and fish. Learning to plan basic meals can keep your diet healthier. Joann also suggests eating fewer restaurant meals, which tend to include foods higher in calories, fat and sodium. Research shows that a reduction of salt in the diet can help lower blood pressure, which is one risk factor for metabolic syndrome.

Talk to your doctor about your risk for metabolic syndrome and what you can do to prevent it. Your doctor may recommend medications that work in conjunction with lifestyle changes to reduce your risk factors.

*milligrams per deciliter

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Recent studies show that following a Mediterranean diet can slow or even prevent the progression of metabolic syndrome.

The Mediterranean diet consists of nutrient-dense meals based on plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, beans and lentils. Fish and seafood are good sources of protein in the diet, but red meat and chicken are acceptable in small amounts. Healthy fats, such as olive oil and canola oil, add flavor to the food and help people feel full.

A recent study that pooled the data of 35 studies showed that people who followed the Mediterranean diet had about a 31-percent-lower risk of developing metabolic syndrome, Joanne says.

"No drug can do that. Besides preventing or reducing metabolic syndrome, the Mediterranean diet has been shown to decrease the risk of heart disease and cancer," Joanne adds.

For recipes, talk to your local Avera dietitian or go to the Avera Heart Hospital's Healthy Kitchen.

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Heart Health is one in a series of Avera eNewsletters that gives readers valuable information about health and wellness at Avera facilities. It is not intended to replace personal medical advice, which should be obtained directly from a physician.