We know you’ve heard about metabolism — but what about metabolic health? This (pretty serious) topic is an important one to have on your radar, as nearly 90 percent of Americans don’t have great metabolic health. Do you? Let’s find out!
What Is Metabolic Health, Anyway?
The definition of metabolic health — from a clinical standpoint, anyway — is somewhat loose. In general, it’s referring to the absence of metabolic disease, or ‘metabolic syndrome.’
Being metabolically unhealthy may come with increased blood sugar, triglyceride and cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, and even excess body fat around the waist. It can lead to some serious health risks in the long run. And, it’s also important to note that it can even affect those who may appear to be healthy, making prioritizing metabolic health important for everyone.
So what causes us to be metabolically healthy or unhealthy? A number of factors play a role, such as weight, activity level (inactivity, specifically), age (risk increases with age), genetics, and insulin resistance.
Why Do You Care?
Shockingly, most Americans are not metabolically healthy. Research published in Metabolic Syndrome and Related Disorders in early 2019 indicated that roughly 88 percent (!!) of Americans did not meet “metabolically healthy” criteria. Only 12 percent made the marks. So how do you stack up, and why should you care?
For starters, ensuring metabolic health (as you probably gathered) can help prevent serious and chronic conditions. Not only that, but research shows that metabolic health also plays a role in our overall immune health as well.
How to Optimize Metabolic Health
Ahead, healthy habits that may not only help improve your metabolic health but your overall health and wellness as well.
One of the primary contributors to poor metabolic health is inactivity; lack of movement, and exercise, sometimes referred to as a sedentary lifestyle. So to tackle this head-on — you know what to do. Schedule some regular workouts. Mayo Clinic recommends getting at least 30 minutes of physical activity most days.
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Chronic stress is one of the contributing factors to poor metabolic health — so stress management is tantamount to metabolic health, too. Try five minutes (or more) of meditation each day in order to get your stress management practice rolling. Another way to manage stress and incorporate regular exercise? You know we’re gonna say it — yoga. This is truly such a fundamental health practice to have in your routine!
While we often hear about maintaining a healthy weight when talking about metabolic health, we also don’t want to get stuck in the vicious cycle of dieting as diets tend to crash and burn (and weight tends to return in spades — you can gain more back than you initially lost). This is why sustainability is important. Enter: intuitive eating. By learning to listen to what your body needs and fuel it appropriately, studies have shown that you may be able to manage your weight more sustainably (and feel better, too) while avoiding those crash-and-burn fad diets. Mayo Clinic also suggests “Eating plenty of vegetables, fruits, lean protein, and whole grains” (always a win!) and “Limiting saturated fat and salt in your diet.” In other words, listen to your body.
If you’re trying to reduce stress, eat better, exercise and recover, and improve your health — and you’re not sleeping — you’re ‘poking holes in your bucket,’ so to speak. Sleep is the foundation for all of your health — physical, mental, emotional — and ensuring you’re getting quality sleep needs to be at the top of your list.
If you find it difficult to wind down before bed, consider implementing a before-bed meditation into your evening routine.
Drink Plenty of Water
This can help with weight management and supports healthy body function in general. If you struggle to drink enough water throughout the day, always have your refillable water bottle with you, and consider adding a splash of lemon juice for an added boost of flavor.
Improve Gut Health
This is an emerging area in the medical field, but gut health may be linked to your metabolic health, too. This is corroborated by late 2019 research published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation, which points to healthy food choices (and low saturated fat) to balance the sensitive microbiota in order to help support metabolic health. Fortunately, the above advice (intuitive and mindful slow eating, hydration, good sleep, and stress management) contributes to gut health. You can also eat probiotic-rich foods. And of course, always chat with your doc and your nutritionist or Registered Dietitian.
RELATED: 5 Daily Habits to Support Gut Health
Supporting metabolic health is a huge part of supporting overall wellness. The good news is that there are many things that are in our control that we can change about our eating style or lifestyle habits to help support our metabolic health.
If you are looking to uplevel your health, consider these hacks, and always speak with your doctor about any concerns you may have about your metabolic health.