What Is Metabolic Health and Why Is It So Important?

Here at Pendulum, we talk a lot about metabolic health. Metabolism, metabolic syndrome, metabolic disease, what’s metabolically healthy, what’s metabolically unhealthy…it’s all incredibly important to your overall health, so we want to clearly define this all important term: what is metabolic health anyway?

The definition of metabolic health

In a study published in the journal Metabolic Syndrome and Related Disorders, metabolic health was defined as having ideal levels of blood sugar, triglycerides, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, blood pressure, and waist circumference, without using medications. 

“Without medications” is key. If someone has to take medication to control their blood sugar, cholesterol, or blood pressure, they already exhibit bad metabolic health.

Another way to look at it is that the 5 markers of metabolic health are:

  1. Blood sugar—a level below 100 mg/dL and above 70 mg/dL
  2. Waist circumference—less than 40 inches for men and less than 34.6 inches for women
  3. Blood pressure—at or below 120/80
  4. Cholesterol—LDL as low as possible and HDL cholesterol greater than or equal to 40 mg/dL for men and 50 mg/dL for women
  5. Triglycerides—below 150 mg/dL
Why is metabolic health so important?

Aside from having less of a chance of developing metabolic disease, being in good metabolic health means you have more energy, you sleep well, your mood is more consistent, your mind is clearer…in short, you feel good. 

In contrast, bad metabolic health is often associated with poor sleep, chronic pain, irritability, infertility, and the inability to lose weight. In addition, if you’re in poor metabolic health, you have more of a chance of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, obesity, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, or stroke.
You may have also heard the term “metabolic syndrome”. Metabolic syndrome is diagnosed when someone has 3 or more of the 5 markers of poor metabolic health.

The very bad news about bad metabolic health

We’ll just get right to it—it’s estimated that only 12% of Americans are metabolically healthy. Not to point out the obvious here, but that means that roughly 88% of Americans are in poor metabolic health. The same research shows that 92% of overweight people and 99.5% of people with obesity are in poor metabolic health.

What causes bad metabolic health or metabolic syndrome?

The underlying causes of metabolic syndrome include being overweight or obese, insulin resistance, physical inactivity, increasing age, and genetic factors

The very good news about bad metabolic health

While you can’t do anything about genetic factors or increasing age, there are things you can do to improve your metabolic health. 

How to improve your metabolic health

Better nutrition: eat lots of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, protein, fermented foods and fiber, and avoid processed foods.
More exercise: even just 20 minutes a day of moderate exercise reduces blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and cholesterol levels.
Adequate sleep: lack of sleep has been linked to increased blood sugar levels, insulin resistance, and risk of obesity. 
Stress reduction: chronic stress can lead to insulin insensitivity over time, so it’s imperative to find healthy ways to deal with stress, from yoga to meditation to exercise.
Get gut healthy: research has shown that metabolic health is intricately linked to your gut microbiome, and that the lack of certain beneficial bacteria, such as Akkermansia muciniphila, is associated with metabolic disease. Akkermansia also supports your GLP-1 production, which is an important tool when it comes to weight management.

Luckily, it’s easy to increase Akkermansia muciniphila in your gut by taking a daily probiotic such as straight up Akkermansia, Metabolic Daily, a probiotic blend that actually optimizes your metabolism to help your body do more with the food you eat, or Glucose Control, the only clinical-grade probiotic on the market for the nutritional management of type 2 diabetes.

If you’d like to learn more on how probiotics can help your metabolism, check out this blog post.

In closing, hopefully the term “metabolic health” has been demystified, and you can see just how vital it is for overall health. While the stats are alarming for American metabolic health, there are relatively easy things you can do to improve your own health. As Buddha once said, “Every human being is the author of his own health or disease.”

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