What Is Metabolic Health?

What Is Metabolic Health?
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What comes to mind when you think of metabolic health? You might think of having a healthy metabolism or striving to reach an ideal weight. While these are important, metabolic health includes many factors, such as your body composition, immune system health, and other health conditions you may face later down the road.

In fact, one study found that only about 12% of Americans are metabolically healthy.1 Yikes! So how do you know if you have good metabolic health? Is there a way to improve it? Keep reading to find out!

How to Measure Metabolic Health

A few key factors can determine your metabolic health. If you have poor health in most or all of these areas, you may be part of the one third of adults that develop metabolic syndrome2: a group of conditions that can create further health risks. So, it’s important to keep the following factors in check:

High Blood Sugar (glucose)

Our food and physical activity choices, dehydration, certain medications with steroids or improper medication use, illness, infection, hormonal changes, and stress can all affect blood sugar levels.3 When too much sugar goes into the bloodstream, the pancreas starts working overtime to pump the body with more insulin. Over time, your body’s cells can stop responding and blood sugar levels continue to rise, leading to insulin resistance and other health issues.4

  • For a healthy person, glucose levels should be less than 100 mg/dl after not eating (fasting) for at least eight hours.
  • For a healthy person, glucose levels should be less than 140 mg/dL two hours after eating.

Waist Size

Your waist size can be another indicator of health risks. A larger waist often means there is excess fat around the organs. To measure your waist, start at the hip bone, then wrap the tape measure around your body. Exhale, then write down the amount shown.

  • A healthy waist size should be about 40 inches or less for men, and 35 inches or less for women.5 Click here for some tips on reducing your waist circumference.


There’s a major misconception that all cholesterol is unhealthy. But good cholesterol is important for your cellular health and metabolic health! There are two types of cholesterol: LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) and HDL cholesterol (the good kind). High levels of LDL cholesterol have been associated with certain health risks, while healthy levels of HDL (ideally above 60 mg/dL) protect your health.6

  • Your total cholesterol should fall below 200 mg/dL. You can get your cholesterol checked through a blood test from your doctor.

Blood Pressure

Abnormally high blood pressure is another sign of poor metabolic health. High blood pressure can occur over time, due to unhealthy lifestyle choices such as inconsistent exercise, a poor diet, and a sedentary lifestyle. Schedule an appointment with your doctor to check your blood pressure levels.

  • A healthy blood pressure level is less than 120/80 mmHg.7 Here are some tips from the CDC to prevent high blood pressure.

Triglyceride Levels

Triglycerides are types of fat lipids found in your blood. High triglyceride levels can lead to thickening of the artery walls and heart issues later.8 There are simple ways to lower triglycerides and manage them better, such as limiting sugar intake and processed foods.

  • A simple blood test can reveal whether your triglycerides fall into a healthy range, which is less than 150 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL), or less than 1.7 millimoles per liter (mmol/L).

Body composition and Obesity

Poor body composition is an unhealthy ratio between muscle mass and body fat. Studies show convincing evidence of obesity having a negative impact on immune system health.9 This is because increased fat cells can put your body in a state of stress and inflammation.

Here are healthy body fat percentages based on age10:

  • Ages 20−39: women — 21% to 32%, men — 8% to 19%
  • Ages 40−59: women — 23% to 33%, men — 11% to 21%
  • Ages 60−79: women — 24% to 35%, men — 13% to 24%

Metabolic Health and the Immune System

New research in the last couple decades has shown a correlation between metabolic health and the immune system. This research is known as immunometabolism. One of its main focuses is how negative metabolic changes can affect your immune system over time and result in negative physiological stresses.11

If those changes can negatively affect your immune system over a long period of time, imagine what the right choices regarding metabolic health can do!

4Life is at the forefront of bringing this research to light by providing ways to achieve a healthier lifestyle.

How to improve Your Metabolic Health

Knowing the risk factors and making healthy lifestyle changes can help lower chances of developing metabolic syndrome and other health problems such as obesity. Don’t know where to begin? Here are a few tips:

Calculate Your BMI (body mass index)

This will help you know if you are at a good, healthy body weight. Calculate your results using this BMI calculator. If your BMI is 18.5 to 24.9, it falls within the healthy weight range.12

Pay attention to your diet!

Eat foods that are naturally high in fiber and low in saturated fat, trans fat, sodium, and added sugars.13

Make physical activity a daily habit

A full 30-minute workout routine is great when you can get it in. But on days you can’t, physical activity can be as simple as taking the stairs instead of the elevator or walking around your neighborhood. (See more tips here on how to incorporate daily fitness into your life.)

Eat lots of fruits and vegetables

The more vibrant the color, the better! Fruits and vegetables are great for energy, vitality, and that extra immune system boost.

Get Enough Sleep

Keep hitting snooze? Getting an adequate amount of sleep is linked to heart health! Visit the CDC’s Sleep and Disorders website for tips on getting better sleep.

Create and maintain a healthy body composition

This all starts by getting rid of excess body fat, building lean muscle, and taking small steps to improve your everyday lifestyle.

Read up on our favorite fitness tips,
then check out some new 4Life resources to help you out! 👇


1 What does it mean to be metabolically healthy?
2 Metabolic syndrome
3 Glucose levels FAQ
4 Hyperglycemia (high blood sugar)
5 Calculating your waist circumfrence
6 Cholestrol Numbers: What do they mean?
7 High blood pressure symptoms and causes
8 Triglycerides: Why do they matter?
9 The impact of obesity on the immune response to infection
10 What is body composition?
11 Immunometabolism: where immunology and metabolism meet
12 Assessing your weight
13 Cholestrol prevention

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