Health/Sci-TechLifestyleVOLUME 19 ISSUE # 16

Stress may lead to metabolic syndrome

High blood pressure. High triglycerides. An expanding waistline. High fasting blood sugar. Abnormal cholesterol. If you have three or more of these ailments, you may have metabolic syndrome – a common, yet often overlooked condition.

Metabolic syndrome, also known as insulin resistance syndrome, raises your risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. But now researchers are finding that stress plays a critical role, and managing that stress could help reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome, as well as treat diseases linked to it.

While managing psychological distress can be complicated at times, there are easy, affordable ways to lower stress levels, along with your risk of metabolic syndrome. Why that’s important: New research published in the journal Brain, Behavior, & Immunity – Health found that stress can lead to increased inflammation, and inflammation raises your risk of metabolic syndrome. Stress can lead to decreases in HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol), and increases in obesity levels, insulin resistance, and triglycerides – all of which can damage your inflammatory pathways. Thus, stress is indirectly tied to metabolic syndrome through the harmful effects of inflammation.

If your levels of triglyceride – a type of fat in the blood – are 150 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or more, you also have a higher risk of metabolic syndrome. Other risk factors include a fasting blood sugar above 100 mg/dL and a blood pressure higher than 130/85.

One of the ways to lower your stress is acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). ACT highlights the benefits of mindfulness – the art of being “in the moment,” along with paying close attention to how your body communicates (for example, acknowledging the severe anxiety you often feel during the holidays or major family gatherings). Another ACT technique is the practice of both recognizing and acting on personal values you have identified. Having self as context – meaning “being aware of thoughts, feelings, etc., without being attached to them” – is another ACT practice.

Along with managing your stress levels, there are other practical ways to monitor, or lower, your risk of metabolic syndrome. These include helpful tracking tools like an inexpensive blood pressure cuff and glucometer (around $20) according to Easton Bryant, PharmD, owner of North Century Pharmacy in Columbia, KY.