Here are six modifiable lifestyle and nutrition practices to implement into your daily routine to support your cardiometabolic health.
Metabolic health, or the proper function of our cells, tissues, organs and organ systems, is the cornerstone of heart disease prevention. However, only 12% of Americans are considered metabolically healthy, leaving the majority of people at risk for serious diseases like heart disease, diabetes and stroke.
Low metabolic health across the country is a direct result of the Standard American Diet (SAD), our modern lifestyle practices, and detrimental environmental toxin exposures.
Early signs of low metabolic health, or cardiometabolic syndrome, include high blood pressure, a high amount of body fat, impaired glucose tolerance (prediabetes), high blood sugar, high cholesterol and a large waist circumference.
If left untreated, these early signs of cardiometabolic syndrome can lead to systemic problems, such as:
- Insulin resistance and Type 2 Diabetes
- Dyslipidemia, or high levels of fat in the blood, which can lead to cardiovascular disease
- High blood pressure
- High stress state
- And increased inflammation
While early prevention of any disease often results in the best outcome (no disease), there are things you can start doing today to improve your overall metabolic health trajectory and possibly reverse a diagnosis. Here are six modifiable lifestyle and nutrition habits you can easily implement into your daily routine:
Diet and Nutrition
1.) Eat whole foods.
The Mediterranean region includes 16 different countries, but people in this region tend to eat the same whole foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, small amounts of dairy, extra virgin olive oil, spices, modest amounts of poultry and fish, low amounts of red meat, and red wine. A Mediterranean diet has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers, and metabolic syndrome.
2.) Strive for a low glycemic impact.
Not all foods have the same impact on blood sugar and insulin. Ideally, blood sugar should remain relatively constant, without huge spikes that cause insulin to surge. To maintain steady blood sugar levels, choose low glycemic foods like various vegetables and fruits: broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, green beans, spinach, berries, and apples. When you eat medium to high glycemic foods, they should be eaten with protein or fat to balance your blood sugar.
3.) Reach for fiber.
This type of carbohydrate is found in plant-based foods like whole grains, legumes, vegetables, and fruit, and can not be digested by the body. This gives you the sensation of fullness without additional calories. Soluble fiber is also important for eliminating cholesterol and toxins from the body to support overall metabolic health.
4.) Say yes to balanced quality fats.
Dietary fats have a bad reputation when it comes to heart disease. Unfortunately, the “low-fat” and “no saturated fat” marketing trends of the 90s have contributed to the addition of inflammatory substitutions, such as refined sugar and trans-fats (i.e., hydrogenated vegetable oils). Instead, a more “heart-healthy” and anti-inflammatory option is to replace saturated and trans fats with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats like extra-virgin olive oil. In addition, strive to eat a balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids (think salmon, walnuts and avocado oil).
5.) Get moving!
Physical inactivity accounts for more cardiovascular disease-related deaths (37%) than smoking (19%) and hypertension (13%) combined, and 15-17% of all premature deaths are attributable to low fitness, according to data from a 2018 study. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) may also improve peak oxygen uptake and should be considered as a component of care for coronary artery disease patients.
6.) Catch more zzz’s.
In the United States, adults who sleep less than seven hours per every 24-hour period are more likely to report a variety of cardiometabolic risks compared to those who get more sleep, or greater than seven hours in a 24-hour period. And more than a third of American adults do not get enough restorative sleep. This is due in part to longer working hours and the use of electronic devices late at night, which is shown to impact natural melatonin production and disrupt sleep cycles. If you’re having trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep, your bedtime routine may need a recharge. You might consider setting a bedtime alarm to remind you to wind down for the night, practicing mindfulness with a nighttime meditation, or cutting down on caffeine.
Taking action to improve your metabolic health can be overwhelming. It’s important to remember there are small changes we can make to our diet and nutrition, and to our lifestyle practices to better support and possibly change the course of your individual health journey.