Metabolic health is a term thrown around a lot in some health circles, but what does it really mean? Strong metabolic health is defined as having ideal levels of various biomarkers that directly relate to a person’s risk for heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.
To be considered metabolically healthy, you need to fall within the ideal range of blood sugar, triglycerides, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, blood pressure, and waist circumference, all without using medications. It is a high bar for defining health, but it is a bar that we should all be reaching for. In our current system, people are often considered healthy if no disease or symptoms exist. That standard is way too low. Just because you aren’t sick doesn’t mean you are healthy. This is why aiming for optimal metabolic health is such a better goal to aim for.
Only 14% of Americans can be considered metabolically healthy. And that is based on data from 2009-2016. Given how we’ve been trending, those figures have probably shrunk over the past few years. I wouldn’t be surprised if we are sitting at less than 10% of Americans with optimal metabolic health today.
And while falling short of optimal isn’t good for anyone, recent data suggests that poor metabolic health hits women harder than men in a few different ways. Statistics show that by the age of 45, women are more likely than men to have impaired glucose tolerance or obesity.
Experts have pointed out several factors responsible for these differences, but a lot of it boils down to the fact that female physiology is much more complex than that of their counterparts. Men have a very simple daily fluctuation of hormones. It is based on their circadian rhythm and regulates mood, appetite, energy levels, and sleep patterns.
Good metabolic health leads to better overall health
On the other hand, women have that same daily fluctuation of hormones, but it is layered on top of a more complex monthly cycle of hormones that adds an additional layer of complexity to the whole system. Because hormones dictate everything in the body, things like weight loss, stress response, sleep-wake cycles, food cravings, mood, and propensity to retain body fat are much more complicated for women than men.
Poor metabolic health in women can lead to polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and infertility. Research also shows that diabetes and insulin resistance – which result from poor metabolic health – can make menopausal symptoms much worse. Even dementia, which is more common in women, has been linked to high blood sugar and poor metabolic health.
And for all the women that want to maintain healthy, glowing, and youthful-looking skin, there is substantial research to suggest that high blood sugar may play a role in the thinning of skin layers and a decrease in collagen and elastin, which leads to the dreaded W word…
The key takeaway? Optimal metabolic health is a goal we should all be reaching for, but for women, it might be a bigger deal than it is for men. So as the New Year gets closer and you start thinking about your resolutions for 2023, let’s focus on improving our blood sugar and insulin resistance.
“New Year, New Me” in 2023 means less processed carbs, more walks after meals, prioritizing good sleep, and finding an exercise routine we can stick to for longer than just January!
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