What is Metabolic Health and How Do I Achieve It?
Paul Kolodzik, MD, FACEP, FASAM
Medical Director – Midwest Metabolic MD
Founding Member – Society of Metabolic Health Physicians
What is metabolic health?
Although the internet may not be searched as frequently for the term “Metabolic Health” as it is for the frequently asked question “How To Lose Weight?” metabolic health is quickly becoming an important goal for many Americans. Metabolic health means that a person has their personal health parameters optimized. This includes having normal numbers for a handful of powerful predictors of chronic disease such as: fasting blood sugar levels, waist circumference, blood pressure, triglycerides, high-density lipoprotein (HDL), and cholesterol.
You may not know at the moment, your current blood sugar, blood pressure, or blood lipid level. However, if you’re taking one or more medications to keep them under control — or if you’ve been told by a healthcare provider that you have metabolic syndrome or prediabetes — you’re probably not in optimal metabolic health. Consequently, you are at risk for serious health conditions in the near term and as you age, including diabetes, heart disease, congestive health failure, peripheral vascular disease, and stroke. Additionally, unfortunately, many people have not had routine blood work checked in a while, and may have abnormal numbers of which they are completely unaware. This would include the 84% of prediabetic patients in the US who are unaware they are prediabetic and that they are on a path to diabetes.
Why do you need to achieve metabolic health?
The good news is that taking steps now to improve or protect your metabolic health can pay off in the long run.
The primary benefit of good metabolic health when you are young or middle aged, is the avoidance of the serious conditions mentioned above, both in the near term and as you get older. Tending to your metabolic health now will greatly increase the likelihood of you being healthy and active into your 60s, 70s, 80s, and beyond.
Additionally, an improvement in metabolic health now will make you feel better immediately: less fatigue, less mental cloudiness, better sleep, and an ability to be more active and productive. It will instill a new energy into your everyday life.
An added benefit of metabolic health is that you may be able to avoid taking expensive medications with potential unpleasant or dangerous side effects. This benefit may be achieved now, in the near future, or later as you get older. For example, prediabetes can be completely reversed with good metabolic health. Diabetes can be put in complete remission (no need to take medications to lower blood sugar). High cholesterol and hypertension can be eliminated.
How can a person achieve metabolic health?
High blood sugar is one of the most common signs of poor metabolic health. Elevated blood sugars, even mildly elevated blood sugars or isolated post meal time blood sugar spikes, can contribute to being overweight or even obese. It also should be no surprise that high blood sugars result from the typical American diet which consists of excessive amounts of carbohydrates.
High blood sugar levels can be safely reversed with a low-carb diet, often in a matter of days. A low-carb diet is achieved by limiting the sugars and starches in your diet. But you need not go hungry, carbohydrates just need to be largely replaced with healthy fats and proteins. In fact, many people on a low carbohydrate to achieve weight loss and/or metabolic health can eat as much as they want and still lose weight and improve their health. They just need to eat the right foods. (As an aside, despite widely held beliefs, a low fat or reduced fat diet has been shown to not lead to good metabolic health. The low fat diet was embraced as way to achieve good health in the middle of the last century. Fat ingestion was replaced with high quantity carbs, and the result has been elevated blood sugar, weight gain, diabetes, and ultimately cardiovascular disease complications for many Americans. As a result of the low-fat diet trends in the last 50 years America has seen higher and higher rates of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. It is time for a different approach. The answer is a low carb, metabolically healthy diet.)
If I decide to improve my metabolic health on a low carb diet, how do I know I will be successful?
Success can be achieved and measured using a number of data points. The routine data points many medical providers use include weight, fasting blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglycerides. Most of these tests, in normal medical care routines, are only evaluated every six months, or even yearly. Unfortunately, many primary care providers are not familiar with the testing and regimens needed to help their patients reach optimal metabolic health. (Ask your primary care doctor what an optimal fasting blood insulin level is, or how to calculate a HOMA-IR”. Chances are they are not familiar with this testing. These are studies that most primary care, family practice, internal medicine, and ob-gyn physicians do not routinely offer.)
And unfortunately, even if they are knowledgeable, doctors are not provided the time during an office visit to address these issues effectively with their patients. Instead of providing a preventative approach, the are caught in the rut of writing prescriptions to treat metabolic syndrome conditions, often as their patient’s metabolic health further deteriorates. The underlying pathological conditions are not being addressed; a Band-Aid is being applied.
To be successful at preventing and reversing metabolic syndrome, a proven medical regimen must be in place to help patients reach their goals. For example, more detailed metabolic health variables must be measured and monitored on a more frequent basis. (For instance, blood sugar monitoring can actually be done continuously, that is, 24/7 in “real time” to help with dietary decisions and blood sugar control.) Midwest Metabolic MD has the expertise to offer continuous blood sugar monitoring and also measure key variables of metabolic health such as insulin levels, HOMA-IR ratios, and levels of insulin resistance.
Our practice utilizes continuous glucose monitoring, so the patient, and their physician (via remote monitoring technology), can evaluate the blood sugar continuously – 24/7. Continuous Glucose Monitoring feedback assists our patients greatly with constant feedback to guide them to dietary modification, weight loss, and improvement in metabolic health. The patient receives a new understanding of the impact of their diet on their metabolic health. Frequent physician remote review of the patient’s data, also often helps our patients stay committed to their diet. This approach also allows for frequent feedback from the physician to the patient regarding progress toward their goals including diet modification, weight loss, improvement in key laboratory study variables, and overall metabolic health.
Our metabolic health management approach offers a data driven scientific method to achieve weight loss and optimal metabolic health. We help patients, without medication, reverse metabolic syndrome and prediabetes, put diabetes in remission, and eliminate common health problems such as hypertension and high cholesterol. Usually, as part of their regimen, patients also lose a significant amount of weight. Data analysis and the most up to date medical monitoring are combined with a very individualized treatment
method to reach these goals. Critical numbers are followed closely, and patients are supported with frequent personalized feedback. Optimal metabolic health is available to those who seek it, provided they are provided the right support, tools and guidance.