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93% of American Adults are Unhealthy
A recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) claims only 6.8% of American adults are metabolically healthy. The study further breaks down the following statistics:
- Only 0.4% of those over the age of 65 years were considered to have optimal health.
- Only 17% of those between the ages of 20–34 have optimal health.
This same study published in 2019 claimed that 88% of American adults had at least one feature of poor metabolic health. As a society, we are moving in the wrong direction. We continue to get sicker and heavier. Why? Simple ... the advice we've been given for decades is wrong. We've been told to count calories, eat less, workout harder and more often, fear meat, fear fat, eat more processed foods, especially whole wheat and grains, and the list goes on and on. We need to stop "being sold" on what to eat and start eating what our bodies were meant to eat.
Before I move on, I want to clear something up. Too many people assume that as long as they aren't morbidly obese, they're healthy. I've got news for you. Among those who are of normal weight, metabolic health is 'alarmingly low'. Look at the graph below. In 2020, according to the CDC, 31.9% of the US adult population had obesity. Now think about the statistic I mentioned earlier where less than 7% of Americans have optimal metabolic health. See how weight isn't the only determining factor?
The thought that 93% of our population is more vulnerable to developing Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other serious health issues, literally keeps me up at night. And unfortunately, as we get older, our risk goes up. But wait! It isn't going up because we're getting older, our risk is going up because the steps we need to take to restore our metabolic health aren't being done. Don't you for one second think that because you aren't in your 20s or 30s anymore, that this is just what happens. This is NOT what is supposed to happen and YES you can take control of your health and prevent, even reverse the damage.
So what is metabolic health?
When we talk about metabolic health there is usually some confusion as to what that actually means. Most people believe that a slow metabolism is the cause of their weight gain, and very few if any think metabolism has anything to do with disease. This misconception leads most to focus on weight loss, vs disease prevention or reversal, and most believe that in order to lose weight, you need to eat less. As everyone knows, however, you can only reduce how much you eat so much and you can only sustain that for so long. That my friends is why restricting your calories doesn't work. If you can't do it until you are 100, then it isn't a solution. As soon as you stop, your results fade away and you end up in the same place you were before, if not worse off.
When I talk about metabolic health, I am talking about how flexible your body is when it comes to converting food into fuel. When you have metabolic dysfunction, your body is unable to use what you eat for energy in your body. This leads to weight gain and chronic diseases such as fatty liver disease, pre-diabetes/diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cognitive decline, PCOS, fatigue, headaches, joint pain, and almost all non-infectious physical and mental chronic conditions.
How do you know if you have metabolic dysfunction?
There are some basic symptoms to watch out for such as weight gain, fatigue, brain fog, headaches, irregular menstrual cycles, erectile dysfunction, etc. We can also test for dysfunction with some basic blood work. When we think about metabolic health we review five factors. Optimal health means your blood markers are within range, without the use of medications.
- blood glucose
- high-density lipoprotein cholesterol
- blood pressure
- waist circumference
When was the last time you had a physical or blood work? If it's been more than a year, it's time to get it done. At least get a blood panel so you can see what your health markers are. Tell your doctor that you want to add a fasting insulin and/or a c-peptide to your blood work. Very few doctors will test for these, so be sure to tell them you want those included.
Don't wait until you are diagnosed with a chronic disease such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, PCOS, obesity, or Alzheimer's. Preventative care can do just that … prevent these diseases from taking over your life. Already diagnosed with one of these conditions? It isn't too late to make sustainable changes to improve your health and your quality of life.
So what are you waiting for? Go get your bloodwork done and let's see where you are today. Are you part of the 93% of Americans with metabolic dysfunction or are you part of the less than 7% who are metabolically healthy?
NOTE: The NHANES covered a time period between 1999-2018, preceding the COVID-19 pandemic, which has only worsened our risk of obesity and other chronic diseases.
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