In my last column I said that BMI (Body Mass Index) is NOT a measure of health. So, if BMI isn’t it, what factors do define health?
In general, people think of health as meaning feeling well, having the energy for life that they expect, and being free of pain and discomfort. One way in which medical professionals define health is “metabolic fitness.”
Metabolism is the total of all biochemical reactions and processes in the body that keep the human body alive. One is defined as being metabolically healthy when you have normal blood pressure, blood sugar and blood fats. The blood fats include blood triglycerides (an end product of fat digestion) and HDL cholesterol (the “good cholesterol” that clears your arteries). One additional factor that’s included in the definition of metabolic health is waist circumference, which should be less than 35” for women and 40” for men.
We are concerned about these measurements because they indicate risk for illness, including diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease. Let’s be clear what we mean by “risk”. This does NOT mean that you will certainly get these diseases. It means that the chances are greater than those for someone without these risk factors.
What should you do if you have these risk factors? The good news is that it’s the simple things we all know are good for us. Eat a colorful diet, including lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, low fat dairy foods (if you’re not lactose intolerant), beans, nuts, and healthy oils such as olive oil. Get some exercise most days, which can be as simple as taking a brisk walk for 30-40 minutes. Get adequate restful sleep and do what you can to minimize stress in your life. Find a health care provider you connect with to help you stay as healthy as possible.
I would be pleased to answer readers’ questions in future columns. Please email me at email@example.com.
Ellen Glovsky is a Key Biscayne resident, published author and Registered Dietitian and Nutrition Coach. Her work focuses on helping people explore and enhance their relationship with food, using a “Health At Every Size” approach. She is also involved in the island community with her work on KBCF’s Women’s Giving Circle. To learn more, visit nutrition-coach.com