Metabolic Syndrome - Small Lifestyle Changes, Big Results
It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to put two and two together, and we all know when we’re not doing the right things to stay healthy. It’s not always easy but making small changes can make a big difference in health. If not you may eventually have one or more of the signs of metabolic syndrome and experience the associated complications including diabetes, insulin resistance, cardiovascular disease and an increased risk not only for stroke but cancer.
Metabolic Risk Factors
The conditions described below are metabolic risk factors. You can have any one of these risk factors by itself, but they tend to occur together. You must have at least three metabolic risk factors to be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome.
• A large waistline. This also is called abdominal obesity or "having an apple shape." Excess fat in the stomach area is a greater risk factor for heart disease than excess fat in other parts of the body, such as on the hips.
• A high triglyceride level (or you're on medicine to treat high triglycerides). Triglycerides are a type of fat found in the blood.
• A low HDL cholesterol level (or you're on medicine to treat low HDL cholesterol). HDL sometimes is called "good" cholesterol. This is because it helps remove cholesterol from your arteries. A low HDL cholesterol level raises your risk for heart disease.
• High fasting blood sugar (or you're on medicine to treat high blood sugar). Mildly high blood sugar may be an early sign of diabetes.
• High blood pressure (or you're on medicine to treat high blood pressure). Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of your arteries as your heart pumps blood. If this pressure rises and stays high over time, it can damage your heart, liver, kidneys, eyes and lead to plaque buildup.
People age 60 and older have a 40% higher risk of metabolic syndrome, probably due to decreased activity in most cases. It’s also been noted that people of Hispanic, African American, and Asian origin have a higher risk. 
What can you do to prevent or reverse the risk factors of metabolic syndrome?
• Get moving – Exercise lowers blood pressure and improves insulin resistance. Ride a bike, join a gym, park the car at the back of the parking lot, take the stairs, walk at the mall, commit to doing some activity at least 30 minutes to an hour 3 or more times a week. People who exercise first thing in the morning seem to have better success because it’s too easy to find an excuse later in the day. You could shrink a size (or more) per month with high-intensity walking which will burn more fat, even after exercising. Try a 10 minute high intensity walk twice a day. Work up to 30 minutes a day and if you’d really like to boost your weight loss, try walking twice a day for 30 minutes or once a day for an hour. When you’ve mastered that, add hills or start taking the stairs. If you have problems with mobility try a recumbent cycle or swimming or even walking in a pool. It is possible to work up a sweat in water.
• Change your diet – lowering triglycerides, cholesterol and blood sugar may be as simple as eating a low carb diet, cutting out sugar and flour and eating more vegetables. Believe it or not, eating more healthy fat such as found in avocado and coconut oil, also helps. Adding foods such as coconut oil, oats, and brown seaweed which contains fucoidan will not only decrease your appetite because you are healthy fat and fiber, they are foods known to lower both cholesterol and triglyceride levels and help decrease belly fat. Get your vitamin C from foods other than fruit like red bell peppers or limit fruit consumption to a serving of berries which has a low glycemic index and contains less fructose. Why? Fructose breaks down into waste products like uric acid which increases your blood pressure by inhibiting the nitric oxide in your blood vessels. Nitric oxide helps your vessels maintain their elasticity, so nitric oxide suppression leads to increases in blood pressure.
• Lower high blood pressure – High blood pressure is not about salt intake as most people have always thought. In fact, we need sodium for our cells to function properly. You can manage your salt intake by seasoning with more herbs but don’t go without salt – just make sure you are getting natural unprocessed salt that provides minerals like pink Himalayan salt or sea salt. These salts not only taste better but don’t contain additives like added silica which can damage blood vessels.
What does matter is the body’s production of human growth hormone (HGH) which begins to diminish as early as the mid-20’s but if maintained through proper diet or supplementation can keep you young and healthy. Adults with growth hormone deficiency can have a variety of signs and symptoms, which include increased body fat, decreased lean muscle mass, extracellular fluid volume, diminished muscle strength, physical energy and stamina, lack of motivation, lethargy, lability (changes in mood), depression, and impairment of cognitive functions. Biological markers include lipid imbalance, atherosclerosis which leads to high blood pressure, increased LDL cholesterol and reduced insulin sensitivity, and metabolic syndrome. Not many doctors are going to address your deficiency of nutrients that will lower blood pressure and at the same time, improve heart function and immunity and prevent certain aspects of aging such as weight gain, muscle loss (and remember the heart is a muscle) and even improve the appearance of skin. And the reason is most don’t know and pills are an easier but not necessarily a quicker fix.
These little known and under-appreciated nutrients with regard to blood pressure that are also vital to our overall health and which prevent aging include:
Arginine – once in the body, arginine changes into nitric oxide, a powerful neurotransmitter which relaxes blood vessels and improves circulation. Not only does the amino acid play an important role in blood pressure regulation it is necessary for wound healing, maintaining immune function and helping to regulate hormones. In addition, arginine helps the kidneys remove waste products from the body. Arginine has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity in obese type 2 diabetic patients with insulin resistance. [Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2006 Nov:291(5):E906-12]
Vitamin C – possibly one of the most important vitamins, vitamin C is necessary for white blood cells to function so it’s crucial in immune response. In the case of high blood sugar, the body’s response is to secrete more insulin which competes with this nutrient. Vitamin C is a powerful anti-oxidant which protects the entire system and especially the heart and eyes. It’s essential for the health of both mother and developing fetus.
Vitamin D – get sun every day. Vitamin D deficiency had been linked to insulin resistance (IR) and metabolic syndrome or syndrome X. Without enough vitamin D, blood pressure goes up because of increase parathyroid hormone and an inappropriate activation or the renin-angiotensin system (RAS) which regulates blood pressure.
Magnesium – the 4th most abundant mineral in the body and an electrolyte. This mineral is important in not only blood pressure regulation but helps control muscular and nervous system function, mental acuity, sleep, depression and even pain.
Ornithine - promotes lipid metabolism  and like arginine increases production of HGH. The amino acid is also important in wound healing and improves high blood pressure.  Ornithine can be produced in the body from L-arginine.
Proline – helps strengthen cardiac muscle. This amino acid is necessary for healthy skin, tendons, ligaments and cardiac muscle.
Lysine - L-lysine taken in combination with vitamin C may help reduce levels of lipoprotein-a (LPA). LPAs carry cholesterol in the blood and contribute to the buildup of plaques that can clog your arteries. If your LPA levels are high, you’re at risk for heart disease, stroke, and ED.
Citrulline – is an amino acid that converts to arginine in the body which as we know lowers blood pressure.
In order to keep our production of HGH at optimum level we need to eat more foods that contain the amino acids arginine, ornithine, and lysine and other nutrients which work synergistically. Increasing intake of arginine can lower blood pressure without the side effects of prescription medications like erectile dysfunction and fatigue and you’ll not only experience lower blood pressure but improved insulin sensitivity. The combination of arginine, ornithine and lysine is a triple whammy for blood pressure and the waistline. Luckily a low carb diet provides for these nutrients. Not having the proper amount of arginine also has an effect on the aging process and we all want to look and feel younger. And while eating a low carb, high protein and fat diet helps, there’s another food that is a superfood when it comes to blood pressure.
Foods high in L-Arginine
- Plant and soy protein are much higher in L-Arginine than animal protein.
- Nuts, sunflower seeds & sesame seeds
- Chocolate, popcorn & carob
- Brown rice, oatmeal & whole wheat bread
- Gelatin desserts
- Fermented foods such as miso and yogurt – miso is also made with brown seaweed
Foods that contain in L-Ornithine
- Dairy products
Food sources of L-Lysine
- Good sources of lysine are foods rich in protein including meat (specifically red meat, pork, and poultry)
- Cheese (particularly parmesan)
- Certain fish (such as cod and sardines)
- Soybeans (particularly tofu, isolated soy protein, and defatted soybean flour),
- Fenugreek seed
Watermelon – a miracle fruit?
Watermelons, like the name implies, are mostly water — about 92 percent — but this refreshing fruit is soaked with nutrients. Each juicy bite has significant levels of vitamins A, B6 and C, lots of lycopene, antioxidants and amino acids, particularly citrulline. There's even a modest amount of potassium.
In a study published in the March 2007 edition of Nutrition, results showed that volunteers drinking three 8 ounce glasses of watermelon juice daily for 3 weeks, had blood levels of Arginine (synthesized from citrulline provided by the watermelon) that were 11% higher than the control group. Volunteers who drank six 8 ounce glasses of watermelon juice daily for 3 weeks had Arginine levels 18% higher than controls. 
Researchers in Mexico at the Heart Failure Clinic found that the administration of L-arginine and citrulline to patients with heart failure had improved right ventricular function by increasing right ventricular ejection fraction, and decreasing systolic pulmonary artery pressure. 
Water the miracle molecule?
One of the most effective and least expensive ways to lower blood pressure is drinking adequate amounts of water. When you don’t drink enough water your body gradually and systematically shuts down some of its capillary beds which leads to increased blood pressure, a bit like someone kinking a garden hose. So, one of the best ways to lower your blood pressure naturally is by staying well-hydrated.
Brown Seaweed – Mother Nature’s Gift From the Sea
Most people don’t know the benefits of brown seaweed but researchers around the world do. Scientists in China found that a molecule in brown seaweed called fucoidan reduces whole-body fat and improves insulin resistance as well as lipid and glucose homeostasis which means it’s effective for Type 2 diabetes.  They also noted fucoidan slowed the progression of atherosclerosis. Another group of scientists found that fucoidan lowered blood pressure and had protective effect on the cardiovascular system. 
What is clear is that diet, exercise and even hydration play an important role in blood pressure, weight, insulin resistance, hyperglycemia, and lipid metabolism – all factors in metabolic syndrome.
8. Nutrition. 2007 Mar;23(3):261-6.