Large waist, high blood pressure, excess blood sugar, high levels of the blood fat triglycerides, or low counts of good HDL cholesterol: Any one of these can harm your health. But when three or more occur together, it gets a new name: metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions that raise the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
But lifestyle changes can delay or prevent serious health problems. Science-backed strategies include not smoking and taking these three additional steps:
Walk (fast). How hard you exercise, not how long, matters more, a study of 10,000 adults in Denmark suggests. Researchers found fast walking and jogging every day can cut the risk of heart disease and stroke by up to 50 percent, but walking an hour a day makes little difference. Another study found that people who lift weights are less prone to metabolic syndrome. Before starting new exercise, talk with your doctor.
Eat fruits and vegetables. Peaches, plums and nectarines in particular have compounds that may fight metabolic syndrome, a study suggests. Other tips: Include lean meats and fish, fat-free or low-fat dairy, whole grains and beans; and limit salt, sugar and saturated fats.
Get your BMI under 25. Body mass index, which is calculated from height and weight, is an estimate of body fat. A BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 is considered normal, and it's the goal range to prevent and manage metabolic syndrome. Note: Losing as little as 5 to 10 percent of your body weight helps insulin and blood pressure and can lessen the risk of diabetes.
Quit smoking. Not only does it worsen the health consequences of metabolic syndrome, but smoking harms every organ in your body and raises your risk of cancer, heart, lung and respiratory disease. For help, visit smokefree.gov or call 1-800-QUIT-NOW.
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