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Are you metabolically healthy?

A metabolically healthy person has great energy, normal blood pressure, great blood sugar dynamics, and no evidence of excess inflammation. It’s important to pay attention to metabolic health because these measures are early warning signs of and risk factors for diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.


How do you know if you meet the definition of optimal metabolic health? Testing in the following areas can uncover health issues to address. Fortunately, many of these can be improved through nutrition, exercise, stress reduction, better sleep, and simple lifestyle changes — which I call the five pillars of holistic nutrition! See below for more on what to test for, what the results mean, and the holistic changes you can make to improve your metabolic health.


Blood sugar regulation

What it means:

How much sugar is in your blood, and how efficiently your body converts sugar to energy. High levels of blood sugar can also damage your ability to respond to insulin, a hormone that controls blood sugar levels.

The tests:

There isn’t one perfect test to tell you how your body is managing sugar; instead, your doctor can get a good picture using four different blood test measures:

  • Fasting insulin: This measures the amount of insulin in your blood when you haven’t eaten anything.

  • Fasting blood sugar: How much sugar is in your bloodstream when you haven’t eaten in 8-12+ hours.

  • Hemoglobin A1C: Gives you a picture of how much sugar has been in your blood, on average, over the past 2 to 3 months.

  • Triglycerides: While triglycerides are typically part of a lipid, or fats, panel, they’re useful in figuring out what’s going on with blood sugar, too. That’s because high triglycerides can be a sign of pre-diabetes or diabetes.

What you can do:

If only one test is elevated, there may actually be something else going on. For example, if your A1C comes back high but the others are normal, you may want to have your iron checked, as low iron levels can affect it. Or, if only fasting glucose is high, it might mean you need to work on stress reduction. If multiple measures point towards blood sugar issues, you’ll want to make some nutritional changes.


Triglycerides

What it means:

Triglycerides are a type of fat in your blood. Foods like sugar, saturated fats, and refined grains can elevate triglyceride levels, but your body can also create them as a way to store excess calories. High levels of triglycerides not only raise your risk of diabetes, but they also increase your risk of heart disease.

The tests:

A triglyceride test, which is a blood test that measures the amount of these fats in the bloodstream, is part of a lipids profile, which also measures different types of cholesterol.

What you can do:

If your triglycerides are high, your doctor/dietitian will likely suggest you start with changes your eating habits. Genetics can also be a cause, but this does not mean high triglyceride levels are absolutely irreversible.


Cholesterol levels

What it means:

Cholesterol is a waxy substance in your cells that your body uses to make hormones and vitamin D. It’s found in foods, but your body can also make as much as it needs. When you have too much cholesterol, it can build up and form a plaque in your arteries, which can then lead to coronary artery disease.

The tests:

The lipid panel run looks at how much of three types of cholesterol you have: high-density lipoprotein (HDL), commonly known as “good” cholesterol; low-density (LDL), the “bad” type that builds up in your arteries; and very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL), which some also consider a “bad” type.

What you can do:

If your cholesterol is slightly or moderately elevated, you’ll want to, again, improve your eating habits (especially taking a look at saturated fat, trans fat, and sugar intake).


Blood pressure

What it means:

Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against blood vessel walls. A consistently high blood pressure level may cause inflammation in the arteries and puts you at risk for a host of conditions such as strokes, heart disease, heart attacks, and more.

The tests:

Blood pressure can be measured at your doctor's office by using a cuff around your arm or at a local pharmacy. You can also get a home blood pressure monitor so that you can measure how your blood pressure changes throughout the day!

What you can do:

Standard advice managing blood pressure is to not smoke(if you do), eat a healthy diet (watching your sodium intake), limit alcohol, and exercise. But looking deeper at the root of high blood pressure can help you make additional changes. If your BP readings are typically elevated in the morning, focusing on stress management techniques might be helpful .

The Takeaway:

All of these measures—and your metabolic health overall—are connected. At The Nourish Center we

work with each client to make the necessary nutrition and lifestyle changes that help them reach optimized lab ranges for each marker, not just normal ones. By keeping an eye on these measures, and making appropriate lifestyle changes, you can improve your health and potentially prevent disease, rather than treating it after it develops.

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