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Are You Metabolically Healthy?

MetabolicHealthJacquie Eubanks RN BSN

If your answer is “yes,” bravo! Only 12 percent of American adults are metabolically healthy, an alarmingly low number. This means that only one in eight Americans is achieving optimal metabolic health. If your answer is “I have no idea,” read on. Most might think in terms of optimal health as opposed to optimal metabolic health. Optimal health, as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO), is “a state of optimal wellbeing, not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Some might say that optimal wellbeing comprises a balance of mind, body and spirit. Obtaining optimal health, as defined by various health experts, may not be practical or even possible. However, consistent strides to attain optimal wellbeing and metabolic health through a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle give rise to benefits that are well worth the effort.

Certainly, many Americans aspire to be the best possible version of themselves and set their health goals accordingly.

A professional athlete’s idea of optimal health might be based on strength, speed and physical prowess gained through an extraordinary amount of work and sacrifice. A nutritionist might focus on blood levels of various nutrients and toxins as a basis for optimal health and might drastically revise a person’s diet and recommend supplements for nutrient deficiencies. A chiropractor might see spinal alignment and posture as integral to the health of the body. To reach optimal health, an internist might recommend dietary improvements, increased physical activity and adjustments in social behaviors, such as not smoking, and drinking alcohol in moderation or not at all. Along with healthcare practitioners, it’s fair to say that, as individuals, we have our own personal idea of what constitutes optimal health.

But, what of metabolic health?

By definition metabolic health means having optimal levels of five factors: blood glucose, triglycerides, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, blood pressure, and waist circumference, without the need for medications, or simply the absence of metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is diagnosed when an individual has three of the following five risk factors for further health complications, even those one is taking medications to control:

  • Increased blood pressure (greater than 130/85 mmHg)
  • Elevated fasting blood sugar (100 mg/dL or higher)
  • High triglyceride levels (150 mg/dL)
  • Low levels of good HDL cholesterol (less than 40 mg/dL for men, and less than 50 mg/dL for women
  • Central obesity or large waist circumference (over 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men)

Metabolic syndrome is associated with top health conditions that have the greatest impact on overall quality of life:

  • Hypertension: High blood pressure occurs when the blood flow exerts higher than normal force against blood vessel walls, which can result in heart attack and stroke.
  • High cholesterol: When HDL cholesterol is too low and LDL cholesterol is too high, fatty deposits can build up on blood vessel and arterial walls, restricting blood flow and increasing risk of heart attack and stroke.
  • Type 2 diabetes: Largely a result of obesity and inactivity, type 2 diabetes develops when the body becomes resistant to insulin or when the pancreas is unable to produce sufficient insulin.
  • Coronary artery disease: High blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking and diabetes can damage the inner layer of coronary arteries, putting one at higher risk for heart attack.
  • Central obesity: An expanding waist is a concern, as it indicates the amount of abdominal or visceral fat present in the body. Visceral fat is metabolically active, producing inflammatory chemicals that interfere with normal functions, and increase the risk of developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Lifestyle modifications that improve metabolic and overall health can have beneficial effects on physical and mental wellbeing and may help to maximize longevity.

  • Reduce stress. Stress can worsen or increase the risk of obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, depression, gastrointestinal conditions and asthma. Stress causes the release of higher levels of stress hormones, and results in an unhealthy amount of fat deposited in the abdomen.
  • Reach and maintain a healthy weight. Obesity is associated with a shorter lifespan and increased risk of many chronic diseases. Avoid overeating and consuming empty calories. A healthy whole food diet and daily exercise may be the most beneficial for losing and maintaining weight, as well as improving metabolic health.
  • Get regular and adequate sleep. Sleep gives our bodies a chance to rest, restore and regenerate. While we sleep, the body performs required maintenance and necessary metabolic functions, such as waste removal and cell repair.

Know your numbers and what they mean for your short and long-term health. Healthy blood pressure, blood glucose, cholesterol and triglyceride levels, as well as proper waist circumference, are key to cardiovascular, metabolic and overall health and longevity.

References:
Only 12 percent of American adults are metabolically health, study finds. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/11/181128115045.htm
Excess body weight: A major health issue in America. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/diet-physical-activity/body-weight-and-cancer-risk/health-issues.html
Only 1 in 8 Americans Are Metabolically Healthy. Here’s What That Means for You. https://www.health.com/condition/heart-disease/metabolic-health
Metabolic Syndrome. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/metabolic-syndrome/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20351921

Get Into Yoga

Yoga has the potential to reduce stress, reduce blood pressure, slow your heart rate and give you more flexibility. If you’re an athlete, yoga helps loosen your muscles which can help in avoiding injuries.