What is Metabolic Health and Why is It Important?

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Metabolism is almost always associated with body weight. When someone has weight gain problems, it's easy to chalk it up to poor metabolism and assume the reverse for slimmer individuals, who are perceived to be healthier. But this may be a simplistic view of things, as several other factors may determine obesity. Also, you can be skinny yet still experience the same ailments that heavier individuals have. Thus, having the wrong notion of what constitutes good metabolic health can be dangerous. In this post, we'd like to present you with a clearer picture of metabolic health and its importance to your overall wellbeing.

What exactly is metabolic health

Metabolism—and its state of health—is actually more than just a yardstick of how fast you can burn calories. When your metabolic condition is in tiptop shape, you enjoy optimal levels of five risk factor variables without the help of medications. These variables are blood sugar, triglycerides, cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and waist circumference, all linked to the risk of developing heart conditions, diabetes, and stroke. 

Although the medical community continues to conduct studies and redefine what constitutes optimal metabolic health, the current risk factor thresholds help determine when lifestyle and pharmaceutical interventions are recommended.

Risk Factor #1: High Blood Pressure

When your heart beats, it forces blood throughout the body, providing it with oxygen and essential nutrients. As your blood flows and circulates, it pushes against the walls of the blood vessels, thus the term "blood pressure" or BP. 

A BP of 120/80 is considered healthy. The first number (systolic) tells you the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats, while the second one (diastolic) determines the tension in your arteries between heartbeats. A normal—and metabolically healthy— BP reading should be less than 120 mmHg systolic and less than 80 mmHg diastolic for men and women aged twenty and above. A higher number, like 140/90, indicates "high blood pressure." High BP levels can damage your arteries and constrict blood flow to your heart and arteries, leading to chest pain and heart disease.

Risk Factor #2: High Triglycerides 

Triglycerides are lipids in the blood that make up most of our body fat. A normal triglyceride range is less than 150 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL).

We need to eat to fuel up. However, when we consume more food than we need or can burn, our bodies convert the unused calories into triglycerides. These are then tucked away in your fat cells for future use. High levels of these lipids can harden your arteries and thicken your arterial walls, making you susceptible to heart disease, stroke, and pancreatitis.

Girl choosing between a fruit and a pastry


Risk Factor #3: Low HDL Cholesterol Levels

You often hear physicians advise patients to "lower their cholesterol." The liver produces this waxy substance to help our bodies build cells, make hormones, and generate vitamin D. We can also get cholesterol from animal food sources. 

Too much "bad cholesterol" or LDL (low-density lipoprotein) can build plaque in your arteries, inhibiting blood circulation and putting you on the line for cardiovascular disease.

On the other hand, individuals with low levels of "good cholesterol" or HDL (high-density lipoprotein) have a greater chance of developing heart diseases. HDL mops up unwanted cholesterol and sends it back to the liver for flushing out of the body. For this reason, having inadequate HDLs is treated as another risk factor. Higher than 40 mg/dL for men and higher than 50 mg/dL for women without augmenting medications are considered sufficient HDL cholesterol levels

Although low HDL is prevalent in overweight people, thin individuals may also suffer from this condition. Worse, they may even be deceived about their health because they don't gain weight easily.

Risk Factor #4: High Blood Sugar 

As delectable as breakfast pastries may be, you may want to skip them. These sugar traps (and a host of others!) can shoot up your blood sugar. As a result, you can become a potential candidate for diabetes. 

The food we eat provides us with glucose, a type of sugar that is our primary energy source. As this sugar enters the blood and travels throughout our bodies, it's then called blood sugar or blood glucose. Our cells then receive this sugar from the bloodstream for energy or later use. To make the "delivery" process efficient, you need insulin. 

However, what happens if you have too little of it (type 1 diabetes) because of a damaged pancreas? Your body may also be unresponsive to insulin (type 2 diabetes), triggering your pancreas to work and impairing it. Either way, your blood sugar levels may rise over time, destroying the blood vessels that deliver that carry oxygen and essential nutrients to your organs.

Target a normal blood sugar level lower than 100 mg/dL after not eating for at least 8 hours (overnight fast). For an ideal sugar spike 2 hours after eating, keep it at less than 140 mg/dL.

Girl with excess belly fat

Risk Factor #5: Excessive Waist Circumference

Or you may want to call it central obesity. In any case, this refers to the excess fat around the waist and the upper parts of the body. One's girth can be a metabolic health marker, indicating the presence of visceral fat. This dangerous fat hides deep inside the belly, wrapping itself around our vital organs (like the liver and intestines) and launching a constellation of metabolic abnormalities. For instance, you can develop heart diseases, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and stroke. You can even end up having breast and colorectal cancer and Alzheimer's disease. 

Keep these in check by maintaining a waistline of less than 102 cm (40 inches) if you're a man or a waist measurement of not more than 88 cm (35 inches) if you're a woman.

Why you need to know about metabolic health

Learning about your metabolic health can uncover your risks, helping you take the necessary steps to improve your physical condition. 

Even a single risk factor can already expose you to several health concerns. But while it's ideal to have none of these indicators, going beyond the metabolic threshold for one of them doesn't necessarily mean you suffer from metabolic syndrome. 

A metabolic syndrome diagnosis means having three or more of these risk factors. Poor metabolic health can further heighten your risk for health complications. Even if your body weight is "normal," you can easily acquire diseases that obese individuals tend to have. Properly evaluating your metabolic determinants can help you avoid the pitfall of overestimating your physical health.

How to achieve metabolic health 

Looking at how potentially critical the risk factor variables are, you may associate them more with chronic cases. However, optimal metabolic health is less prevalent than you think. The Metabolic Syndrome and Related Disorders journal presented a study revealing that less than 13% of adults in the United States are in good shape metabolically. Fortunately, there are things you can do to help decrease this statistic. Here are a couple of practical ways to improve your metabolism:

  • Take the test.
  • Become aware of your risks by getting an annual physical examination. 

  • "Depressurize!"
  • Normalize your blood pressure by quitting the smoking habit, cutting back on caffeine, keeping a healthy weight, and reducing stress.

  • Change for the better.
  • Switch from a refined, high-carb, and high-sugar diet to one rich in vegetables, healthy fats (fatty fish like salmon and sardines), high-fiber whole grains, and fruits low in fructose (like melons and grapefruit). 

    You'll want to reduce your intake of saturated fats from red meat and full-fat dairy products. Additionally, go for low-glycemic-index foods such as legumes and nuts.

    Woman in black activewear exercising with a jump rope


  • Be on the move!
  • Make exercise a daily habit. Challenge yourself with metabolic workouts. Do consult with your doctor before jumping into any rigorous physical regimen.

  • Stay hydrated.
  • Drinking enough water can help improve your body's cardiovascular, digestive, and other metabolic functions. Men need to swig at least 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of water or fluids a day. Likewise, women need to replenish with at least 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of non-alcoholic drinks daily.

  • Practice sleep hygiene.
  • Create a bedtime routine, consistently sleeping and waking up at fixed times.

    Prepare to "disengage from the world" at least two hours before bed by avoiding stimulating activities and ditching electronic gadgets. Unwind with a warm soak and some chamomile tea. Bring the thermostat down and tuck yourself in.

  • Let the light shine!
  • Boost your metabolism with infrared light therapy, a safe and non-invasive technology that provides many health benefits. This cutting-edge treatment uses red and near-infrared light beamed either on the entire body or on a specific part. The low-level frequencies penetrate deep into the skin to heal and regenerate cells and tissues. Infrared light can also increase nitric oxide generation, an essential molecule that helps blood vessels relax. By improving blood flow, it enhances cardiovascular health.

    While it can induce cellular activity, it can also inhibit the multiplication of cancer-causing cells. Other medical uses are in treating stroke and Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases. 

    Entrust your metabolic health with HigherDOSE. Our Full Spectrum Infrared Sauna comes customized with three different sets of waves. First, its near-infrared light strengthens your immunity. Second, the mid-spectrum waves enhance blood circulation. And lastly, the far-infrared light penetrates the core, releasing metals for the ultimate detox. So choose optimal metabolic health—shop at HigherDOSE today.

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