Are you metabolically healthy?

You may be under the impression that you are leading a healthy lifestyle if you maintain a healthy weight. While managing your weight is important in maintaining your overall health, your metabolic health is equally important.

Metabolic health refers to five main areas, including your blood pressure, blood sugar, waist circumference, triglycerides and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol level (HDL). If your metabolic health does not meet the desired threshold, then you may be at risk of developing several health issues.

While your metabolic health is not the leading cause in developing diseases, it can directly increase your risk of developing diabetes, heart disease or experiencing a stroke. You can work directly with your health care provider to identify the steps you must take to determine your metabolic health. There are ways in which you can improve your blood pressure, blood sugar and other contributing levels if you are found to be at risk. The following explains metabolic health and steps you can take to improve it.

Who is at risk of developing poor metabolic health?

Anyone can fall below or above the optimal metabolic health range, although some patients are at a higher risk than others. Research conducted at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill indicates that only one in eight adults across the United States has optimal metabolic health.

Obese patients typically fared worse than other participants in the study. This is because patients who are overweight tend to have higher levels of cholesterol and a larger waist circumference. Only 0.5 percent of obese participants reported having optimal metabolic health when examined by participating health care professionals.

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Additionally, underweight participants struggled to meet the optimal metabolic health guidelines agreed upon by the University of North Carolina medical staff. According to results concluded from the research, less than half of the underweight participants reached optimal metabolic health. This trend also carried over into individuals who were at a normal weight. In fact, less than half of these participants met the requirements for optimal metabolic health despite seeming like they were metabolically healthy.

As there are several factors contributing to your metabolic health, you may be at a heightened risk if you identify as a non-Hispanic black or if you are 60 years of age or older. These two groups reportedly have the poorest metabolic health of all participants observed for this study. If you fall within one of these groups, then you are strongly encouraged to schedule an appointment with your primary care physician to determine your metabolic health. He or she can advise you with the appropriate steps to improve your health over time. The longer you wait, the more you put your health at risk.

How do I determine my metabolic health?

Lifestyle and environmental factors can directly contribute to a patient’s metabolic health. Individuals who display optimal metabolic health fall into one of the following categories:

  • Women
  • Adults younger than 40 years of age
  • Physically active individuals
  • Non-smokers
  • Adults with some college education

Whether you fall into one of these categories or not, you must consult with your health care professional. He or she can determine if you meet the required levels of each contributing factor to your metabolic health. This includes the standard threshold for blood pressure levels, which is 120 over 80. However, it is important to keep in mind that you must meet the standards for at least three of the five factors to be considered metabolically healthy. Some health care professionals even believe you can only obtain optimal metabolic health if you meet the standard in all five categories.

Currently, there is no consistent standardization used by medical professionals to determine your metabolic health, although many use the same general guidelines. The only consistent measure is your waist circumference, as this is one of the leading factors in determining your overall metabolic health. Doctors agree patients who have a larger waist circumference are at an increased risk of developing serious health issues throughout their lifetime.

The only way to determine your metabolic health is through preventative care. Request an appointment for an annual physical with your primary care physician. During your examination, speak with your doctor about your concerns for your metabolic health and request testing for each of the contributing categories. Your doctor can help you complete the lab tests required to determine your blood pressure, blood sugar, triglycerides, HDL levels and waist circumference.

What can I do to improve my metabolic health?

If your primary care physician determines you have poor metabolic health, then you must take the necessary measures to improve your metabolic health over time. Most of the adjustments you need to make stem from your diet and your level of activity. Studies found that participants who eat healthily and exercise regularly are at a decreased risk of developing heart disease and diabetes.

To improve your metabolic health, adopt a regular exercise routine to help you stay active throughout the week. You can adjust this routine as needed to accommodate your job, family and other hobbies. However, you must exercise consistently to see improvement. In addition to exercising regularly, you must ensure you maintain a well-balanced diet that contains an appropriate serving of vegetables in every meal.

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When you are exercising regularly and eating healthy foods, you are effectively lowering your body weight and managing your blood sugar and cholesterol levels over time. If you need help with either of these areas, then consider hiring a personal trainer or consulting with a dietician. Additionally, smoking directly contributes to poor metabolic health and links to various lung diseases. If you are an avid smoker, then you must quit this habit to improve your overall health. Visit your primary care physician for your physical every year to track whether your changes are actually improving your metabolic health.

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