Only 7% of Americans have satisfactory levels of cardiometabolic health. A recent study raises concerns that many risk factors for heart disease are on the rise.
Researchers from Tufts University examined heart health trends based on twenty years of data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. They focused on five components that included blood pressure, blood sugar, blood cholesterol, being overweight or obese, and having cardiovascular disease.
The worst shifts were in weight gain and blood sugar. Two decades ago, 1 out of 3 adults were at a healthy weight, compared to 1 out of 4 today. At the same time, the rate of diabetes and prediabetes has risen from 40% to 60%.
Some of the answers to this situation require public action, like changes in food supply and health systems. However, there are many things you can do on your own too. Start with these tips for upgrading your cardiometabolic health.
Maintaining a Healthy Body Weight
Losing just 5 to 10% of your body weight is likely to lower blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and blood sugars. It may take some effort, but the results are worth it.
Try these tips:
1. Consume more fiber. Foods rich in fiber fill you up and enhance your digestion. Get most of your calories from vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Limit ultra-processed foods with added sugar and salt.
2. Shrink your portions. You may be able to enjoy your favorite dishes as long as you practice moderation. Use smaller plates at home and order half portions when you go to restaurants.
3. Dine in. Preparing your own meals and snacks gives you more control over the ingredients. You can choose healthier fats and keep track of calories.
4. Drink water. There’s a tendency to underestimate liquid calories, so keep sugary beverages and alcohol to a minimum. Quench your thirst with plain water or add a little flavor with sliced fruit or sprigs of mint.
5. Weigh yourself. Stepping on your bathroom scale can stop weight gain from creeping up on you. Keep in mind that it’s natural for the numbers to fluctuate a little day to day.
6. Work out. While diet is usually the most important element in losing weight, an active lifestyle can help you keep the pounds off. Create a balanced training routine with exercises for heart health, strength, and flexibility.
Preventing Diabetes and Prediabetes
Diet, exercise, and losing excess weight are the main strategies for protecting yourself from diabetes.
Try these additional steps as well:
1. Get tested. More than 90% of adults with prediabetes are unaware they have the condition. A simple blood test can provide the information you need to help protect yourself.
2. Know your risks. The chances of developing type 2 diabetes or prediabetes increases after the age of 45. Other risk factors include having a family member with type 2 diabetes and giving birth to a baby who weighs more than 9 pounds.
3. Manage stress. Some research suggests that stress hormones can interfere with insulin production. In any case, feeling overwhelmed undermines your mental and physical health. Reduce daily tension by doing something that you love to do or calling a friend when you feel down.
4. Quit smoking. Adults who smoke are up to 40% more likely to develop diabetes. If you’re having trouble quitting, try a combination of methods, like nicotine replacement devices and a support group.
5. Take your medication. While lifestyle changes are enough in many cases, your doctor may prescribe drugs like metformin. Follow their recommendations. You’ll probably need to take it with meals once or twice a day.
Taking care of your heart may help you live longer and enjoy a higher quality of life. Adopt a healthy lifestyle and talk with your doctor about your individual risk factors and what you can do about them.