If you’re like many people, you probably haven’t spent much time thinking about your cardiometabolic health. Yet, it’s absolutely crucial to your physical and mental well-being and the overall quality of your life. No doubt, you know that cardiovascular disease (CVD) can put you at risk for all sorts of nasty problems — heart attacks, strokes, cardiovascular-related deaths, hypertension, and high cholesterol levels, just to name a few — but did you know that CVD also places you at higher risk for mental health issues such as anxiety and depression?
Cardiometabolic health: Why is it important?
Cardiometabolic health is important for many reasons. It helps reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. It also helps keep blood pressure and cholesterol levels in check. Plus, it can help you maintain a healthy weight. So how good is your cardiometabolic health? And what is that, anyway?
To find out, you can ask your doctor for a cardiometabolic health assessment. It’s likely that most doctors already include some version of it in their general physical examinations. For a basic assessment, your doctor will ask about your family history of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol levels. They may also test some basic measures such as your body mass index (BMI), waist circumference or fasting glucose levels.
The importance of body mass index (BMI)
Body mass index (BMI) is a measure of body fat based on height and weight that applies to both adult men and women. A BMI of 25 or more is overweight, 30 or more is obese, and 40 or more is morbidly obese. While BMI does not directly measure body fat, it is a useful tool to assess cardiometabolic health. Individuals with a BMI in the overweight or obese range are at increased risk for heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer. Therefore, it is important to maintain a healthy BMI to reduce your risk of developing these chronic diseases.
BMI ranges for different ethnicities
It’s important to understand that BMI ranges vary for different ethnicities. For example, the healthy BMI range for someone of Asian descent is 18.5-22.9, while for someone of Caucasian descent, it’s 18.5-24.9. This means that what may be considered a healthy weight for one person may not be for another.
Waist measurement and risk factors
A high waist circumference is a risk factor for developing cardiometabolic conditions such as heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. You can measure your waist circumference by wrapping a measuring tape around your natural waistline, just above your hipbones. A reading of 35 inches or more for women and 40 inches or more for men indicates an increased risk for these conditions. Other risk factors include high blood pressure, high triglyceride levels, low HDL (good) cholesterol levels, and high fasting blood sugar. Having just one of these conditions puts you at greater risk for developing others. That’s why it’s important to know your numbers and talk to your doctor about ways to improve your cardiometabolic health.
The role of exercise
Exercise plays an important role in cardiometabolic health. It helps to control weight, lower blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels, and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. Regular exercise also helps to reduce stress and improve mental health.
As well as physical activity, other important factors for healthy cardiometabolic health include sleeping well, eating a balanced diet, not smoking, and avoiding excessive alcohol consumption. And keeping your mind active by learning new skills or socialising regularly can make an important contribution to good mental health. While achieving optimal cardiometabolic health may seem like an overwhelming task, small changes can make a big difference over time. For example – taking regular exercise in small doses of 10 minutes a day is still better than no exercise at all! Making positive changes to your diet such as reducing sugar intake or making sure you eat breakfast every day will help improve blood sugar levels and reduce stress on your body.
Physical activity guidelines for different ages
The amount of physical activity needed to maintain good health varies by age.
* Children and adolescents ages 6 to 17 should do 60 minutes or more of physical activity a day.
* Adults ages 18 to 64 should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week.
* Older adults, those aged 65 years and older, should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week, or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity a week.
* Additionally, all adults should do muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week.
How to improve heart disease risk factors
Poor cardiometabolic health is a major risk factor for heart disease. There are several things you can do to improve your cardiometabolic health and reduce your risk of heart disease:
- Get regular exercise. Regular physical activity can help lower blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels, and reduce insulin resistance.
- Eat a healthy diet. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein can help improve cardiometabolic health.
- Quit smoking. Smoking is a major risk factor for heart disease. If you smoke, quitting is the best thing you can do for your heart health.
- Maintain a healthy weight.