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What is Metabolic Syndrome and What Does it Mean for You & Covid-19?

Metabolic syndrome occurs when a person has three or more of the following measurements:

  • Abdominal obesity (Waist circumference of greater than 40 inches in men, and greater than 35 inches in women)

  • Triglyceride level of 150 milligrams per deciliter of blood (mg/dL) or greater

  • HDL cholesterol of less than 40 mg/dL in men or less than 50 mg/dL in women

  • Systolic blood pressure (top number) of 130 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) or greater, or diastolic blood pressure (bottom number) of 85 mm Hg or greater

  • Fasting glucose of 100 mg/dL or greater

Although metabolic syndrome is a serious condition, you can reduce your risks significantly by reducing your weight; increasing your physical activity; eating a heart-healthy diet that's rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and fish; and working with your healthcare provider to monitor and manage blood glucose, blood cholesterol, and blood pressure.

As of midnight on April 6, 2020 there had been 5,489 fatalities caused by COVID-19 in the state (New York), of which 86.2% (4,732) had at least one underlying condition, the New York State Department of Health reported April 7 on its COVID-19 tracker.

In a case series that included 5700 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in the New York City area, the most common comorbidities were hypertension, obesity, and diabetes. Among patients who were discharged or died (n = 2634), 14.2% were treated in the intensive care unit, 12.2% received invasive mechanical ventilation, 3.2% were treated with kidney replacement therapy, and 21% died.

While COVID-19 is here and is certainly deadly, the main comorbidities are amongst the symptoms of Metabolic Syndrome. It is my belief that for current populations and future generations this is important information, in that it shows that death from COVID-19 and similar future virus' is at least somewhat controllable through lifestyle factors. While Metabolic Syndrome has been identified and the term used since 1977, it is likely to become more prevalent in use as our understanding of these links to comorbidities continue.

The positive news is that you can take steps to prevent Metabolic Syndrome, and therefore prevent further health complications. These steps include a sound eating plan, regular exercise and a healthy amount of sleep.

It should be noted that only 12.2% of the American population has metabolic health, defined as having optimal levels of waist circumference (WC <102/88 cm for men/women), glucose (fasting glucose <100 mg/dL and hemoglobin A1c <5.7%), blood pressure (systolic <120 and diastolic <80 mmHg), triglycerides (<150 mg/dL), and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (≥40/50 mg/dL for men/women), and not taking any related medication.

The Short Version: Do all of the things you already know to do - eat much better, exercise regularly, get plenty of rest, drink plenty of water and practice stress reduction. These are not wildly unknown things, but they are wildly under practiced. In my opinion, it's time to change that. If this isn't a wakeup call to change your lifestyle patterns, I don't know what is.

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