Few Americans Have Perfect Metabolic Health

It’s the time of year when small indulgences can quickly add up, especially if your activity level drops off due to inclement weather or the demands of preparing for the holidays.  But staying healthy year-round is eluding many Americans,  a new study of metabolic health has found. 

According to a recent health.com report, metabolic health is measured by a combination of blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides and blood sugar levels as well as waist circumference.   Adults who have too high or too low levels of 3 out of 5 of these factors are considered to have metabolic syndrome which puts them at increased risk for diabetes, stroke and heart disease.

A new study, published in the Metabolic Syndrome and Related Disorders journal, found that only about 1 in 8 Americans has perfect metabolic health without needing to take medication. According to the University of North Carolina study, to achieve perfect metabolic health adults must have a waist circumference lower than 40 inches for men and below 34.6 inches for women, a blood sugar below 100mg/dL, blood pressure below 120/80, triglycerides below 150mg/dL and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (good cholesterol) equal to or greater than 40mg/dL for men and 50mg/dL for women.

Researchers are concerned at what they call the “alarmingly low” number of Americans who are in perfect metabolic health, even among those with a normal weight, although some argue that waist circumference shouldn’t be considered a high-risk factor for metabolic syndrome.  People who feel stigmatized because of their weight may experience higher levels of stress which can increase the risk for high blood pressure and insulin resistance, other important factors in metabolic health. 

Socioeconomic status can also contribute to metabolic disease; worry and stress over bills and expenses can lead to a higher risk for heart disease.  Finding time to exercise, eat a healthy diet and get enough sleep can be difficult for adults with less education and poorer paying jobs.  But stopping smoking, drinking enough water and getting tested to determine if you have any of the risk factors are the first steps in making healthier lifestyle choices that can help prevent chronic illness in older age.  Learn more about metabolic syndrome by following this link to the Mayo Clinic website.