Metabolic syndrome is not one specific syndrome, but a group of related syndromes which can have a negative effect on your overall health. Generally, the phrase “metabolic syndrome” includes the conditions:
- High blood pressure
- High blood sugar levels
- Bad cholesterol
- Excess body fat around the waist (a waist circumference greater than 35” for women and 40” for men)
- High levels of triglycerides
The presence of one or several of these conditions can greatly increase your risk for diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
Higher Healthcare Cost
A person with metabolic syndrome will in most cases need to see the doctor more frequently and will likely need more prescriptions and medical assistance than those without the syndrome, costing insurance companies more. Because of the risks associated with metabolic syndrome, people that display some of these symptoms often pay more for insurance in anticipation of them needing more medical care than a healthy person.
The Actual Cost
Studies have shown that people suffering from only one condition of metabolic syndrome pay almost twice as much as those not dealing with this condition. Even suffering from just one facet of metabolic syndrome (such as high blood pressure) renders a person five times more likely to develop diabetes. These increased risks and costs make health care even more difficult – and expensive – to maintain for those that may need it most.
How to Afford it if you Can’t Afford it?
The best way for people with metabolic syndrome to lower the cost of health care is to attack the root of the problem and focus on changing their habits and lifestyle. Most, if not all, of the conditions associated with metabolic syndrome can be made more manageable with increased physical activity and diet change. Some specific lifestyle changes that can decrease your risk for high healthcare costs (and further health problems) include losing weight, exercising, quitting smoking, and increasing fiber intake.
Reducing Employer Healthcare Costs
Employers interested in lowering the cost of their corporate health insurance program can be proactive in creating employee wellness programs geared towards helping employees lose weight and quit smoking. Such programs have a number of benefits:
- Losing as little as five to ten percent of your body weight can greatly decrease your risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Excess fat can also cause high blood pressure because the heart must work harder and under more pressure to transfer blood to the whole body. This pressure can ultimately prove fatal.
- Weight loss can be achieved by simply lowering calorie-intake and exercising more. Doctors recommend getting your heart rate above-average for at least 30 minutes a day to stay healthy. Whether it’s a bike ride, aerobic activity, swimming, or just a quick walk; any increase in activity will strengthen your heart and reduce fat over time.
- In addition to all of the other side-effects of smoking, using tobacco products has been proven to raise blood pressure and increase the risk of heart disease (more so in women than men). Quitting smoking is therefore a crucial step in combating metabolic syndrome risks and inherently combating higher healthcare costs.
A good corporate wellness program will give employees the tools they need to address the underlying lifestyle issues that contribute to poor health and, in many cases, metabolic syndrome. When employees make healthy lifestyle choices, not only does the cost of providing them with healthcare decrease, their productivity also increases, making employee wellness an investment with strong ROI.
Dana Rostro is the Director of Employee Benefits Sales and Operations at Texas Associates Insurors. Dana is ACA certified and has helped clients develop the best strategies for their operations within the new healthcare legislation.