Metabolic Syndrome: Reduce Your Risk

heart and stethoscopeEvery day, it seems we hear about the importance of caring for our overall health. While good health is important for everyone, individuals diagnosed with Serious Mental Illness (SMI) need to be particularly concerned as they face a 15 to 25 year shorter lifespan than the national average. This shortened lifespan is a result of increased instances of Metabolic Syndrome (which can lead to heart disease), smoking, and inadequate access to medical care.

Even with this difficult news, there is hope. Many of these health risks can actually be treated or avoided altogether by making lifestyle changes. Here, we will explore Metabolic Syndrome-what it is and how to reduce your risk.

What is Metabolic Syndrome?

The American Heart Association and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute define Metabolic Syndrome as answering “yes” to three or more of the following five measures:

Elevated waist circumference
  • Men Equal to or greater than 40 inches (102 cm)

  • Women Equal to or greater than 35 inches (88 cm)

  • How to check Measure your waist circumference. This is the length it takes a measuring tape to circle your body at the level of your belly button.

apple and measuring tapeElevated triglycerides
  • Men Equal to or greater than 150 mg/dL

  • Women Equal to or greater than 150 mg/dL

  • How to check Go to your doctor and request a fasting lab including this measure.

Reduced HDL (“good”) cholesterol
  • Men Less than 40 mg/dL

  • Women Less than 50 mg/dL

  • How to check Go to your doctor and request a fasting lab including this measure.

Elevated fasting glucose
  • Men Equal to or greater than 100 mg/dL

  • Women Equal to or greater than 100 mg/dL

  • How to check Go to your doctor and request a fasting lab including this measure.

Elevated blood pressure
  • Men Equal to or greater than 130/85 mm Hg

  • Women Equal to or greater than 130/85 mm Hg

  • How to check Go to your doctor or local pharmacy to request a blood pressure reading.

Why focus on Metabolic Syndrome?

Having Metabolic Syndrome is an indication that you are at a higher risk for heart disease, stroke, vascular disease, and type 2 diabetes. These conditions can all result in pre-mature death. For more details about these conditions, visit the American Heart Association’s website at http://www.americanheart.org/.

What can I do to avoid it or reduce my risk?

Eating three healthy, well balanced meals a day, drinking plenty of water and exercising moderately on a regular basis are all important ways to maintain good health.

Of course, any action plan will depend on your personal needs and on the recommendations of your health care provider. Meeting with your primary care physician is an important first step to identifying risks and determining what is needed to improve your health. During your visit, request to have your blood pressure measured and schedule a fasting lab that will check your triglycerides, HDL’s, and fasting blood sugar. The results of these tests will give you and your doctor a good picture of your current health status.

Man and child riding bicyclesIt is also important to talk to your psychiatrist about the potential side effects of your medications. Changes in medication can affect your energy level, attitude, and even your weight. Second generation anti-psychotic medications and other medicines can be related to metabolic abnormalities. Be aware that you should never discontinue your medications without speaking with your doctor.

Metabolic Syndrome occurs over time and therefore won’t just “go away” without taking intentional steps to improve your health. Together, you and your heath care practitioner can develop an action plan that makes sense for you. While there is no easy answer, with some determination and careful attention to lifestyle choices, you can be on your way to improving your health and living a better life!

For more information on Metabolic Syndrome, visit:
American Heart Association

Rituals: Inspire Wellness in Your Life

Incorporating healthy rituals into our everyday lives is an excellent way to nurture the mind, body, and spirit. When we start our day with practices that make us feel good, we create momentum toward a sense of overall wellness. These daily rituals can inspire new life within us.

What is a ritual? While often associated with religious practices, rituals are simply a set of actions that hold some symbolic value for us. We can think about rituals as those repeated practices that we rely on to keep us focused each day. These daily practices offer simplicity and serve to remind us of what gives meaning to our lives. In our unpredictable and fast-paced lives, rituals provide comfort and reassurance.

Creating and practicing rituals may sound simple, however many of us struggle to find time to include them in our busy schedules. We are accustomed to letting our “to-do” list determine how we spend our day. Often that very list can leave us feeling frustrated or overwhelmed. Incorporating new and positive activities into our routine can reduce this frustration, perhaps even inspire and excite us!

Rituals don’t need to be elaborate, but they should be personal. The key to creating a healthy practice is to include activities that will inspire and create positive momentum for you. It’s important to realize that what one person considers positive or healthy may be stressful for another. For some, listening to music or writing in a journal can help them to feel grounded and ready to embrace the day. For others, inspiration might come from calling a friend for support, doing something creative, or even taking a walk outdoors.

Not all rituals need to occur daily. While most of us engage in daily practices like brushing our teeth, eating a healthy breakfast, or taking our medications, there are many rituals that occur less frequently. Some people connect with friends on the weekends or water their plants on Wednesdays. Others might share dinner with family every couple of weeks. Yearly tasks, such as tending to a garden in the spring, can serve to remind us that new beginnings are just around the corner.

How do you decide which daily practices will work in your life? Begin by writing a list of activities that make you feel good. Try closing your eyes and thinking about what lifts your spirit. What brings you a sense of peace or a feeling of calmness? Is it writing in your journal each morning? Do you prefer to take your pet for a walk?

Now that you have an idea of which rituals work for you, what is the best time during the day or week to integrate them into your schedule? Although many find mornings to be their most productive time of day, others might prefer quiet reading or even a hot bath with a cup of herbal tea before bed. Be flexible and feel free to make it up as you go along. Creating a routine isn't easy at first, and everyone's rituals are different. None of us are wired exactly the same and it doesn’t make sense to assume that the same routine will work for everyone.

Whatever rituals you incorporate into your day, remember that they should help to ground you, not create stress. With a little patience and perseverance, these small changes will begin to positively affect your overall recovery and wellness.

Wellness: Add Some “SPICES” to Your Life

Wellness is not merely the absence of disease, but a sense of overall enjoyment and satisfaction experienced in everyday life. Simply asking someone a generic question such as, “What did you do for exercise yesterday?” may not be enough to help them move towards wellness.

Instead, asking “What makes you get out of bed in the morning?” or “What excites you?” can help us connect with people on a more personal level. Such connections set the stage for success allowing us to partner with them and discover what will make their life work.

The right support allows people to move toward finding their own sense of flow—a place where success and challenge are balanced, producing an experience of effortlessness and, potentially, joy.

The recipe to create this flow is unique to every individual, but we can use a list of ingredients or “SPICES” to help discover what will assist each person to find what works for them:

  • Social
  • Physical
  • Intellectual
  • Career
  • Emotional
  • Spiritual

When something goes wrong with any one of the “SPICES” we may find imbalance with one or more of the other “SPICES”.

For example, losing our job (career) may mean losing friends (social), creating a sense of isolation (emotional). This isolation may contribute to unhealthy eating habits causing weight gain (physical) or general malaise (spiritual). This imbalance can cause a downward spiral in mental and physical health and may greatly affect our quality of life.

Similarly, if we are struggling in one area, having success in another area may help us restore our balance. For instance, when we find the ‘love of our life’ (social), we are revitalized (emotional) and therefore more willing to find a way to afford a gym membership (physical) or fill out a job application for that dream job (career). Modest success in just one area can be the impetus that creates momentum for our whole life, creating a feeling of flow.

General examples, while helpful, may seem “Easier said then done,” for many of us. We may have good reasons to be pessimistic or fearful. Becoming hopeful and contemplating a life of balance and joy may feel like a set up for failure and disappointment. Health issues and serious mental illness may hamper our ability to look beyond the moment and hope may seem like something we can only have once we “get well”.

The key to finding balance, or even believing we are entitled to it, is very personal and may begin with asking a Wellness Specialist or trusted peer to help us.

Each of us can create our own personal recipe of daily or weekly practices that can help us think and act hopefully. These activities may be as simple as a walk in the park, as daring as trying acupuncture or as intellectually stimulating as journaling for ten minutes a day, three days a week.

Over time, and with patience, these small steps can lead to small successes that can create flow, begin to put “SPICE” back into our lives, and bring balance, wellness and even joy.

Contact Us

For more information about Wellness Window or our contributors please contact:

Cherie Brummans
Project Transition
tel. (215) 997-9959

About the Wellness Window

Welcome to Wellness Window, a collaborative effort by Project Transition and NAMI Montgomery County.

This site offers up to date information about the role of wellness in psychiatric recovery.

Each article will feature a new health related topic intended to educate individuals about the importance of overall wellness of mind, body, and spirit.

It is our goal to provide resources for learning about and living a healthy, actualized life. Through this Wellness Window, we offer information pertinent to the body, mind and spirit that will allow others to focus on inner health and outer growth.

We hope you enjoy!

For more information, please contact us.

Information on this Wellness Window is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your healthcare professional.

Please consult with a Physician prior to initiating a Wellness Program.