If you read Part 1 of this series on cardiometabolic health, you’ll know that less than 7% of adults in the U.S. are in the optimal range for metabolic risk factors. And for women, the risk increases after menopause, affecting healthspan and longevity.
The good news is that many risk factors, like blood sugar, lipids, and blood pressure, are within your control and modifiable through lifestyle factors, including nutrition. Today’s article will dive into nutrition and lifestyle habits for cardiometabolic health. I’ll cover:
Let’s dive in!
The Cardio IQ Advanced Lipid Panel is a standard blood test providing lipid levels and cardiac risk data. It takes a deeper, more refined look than a standard lipid panel and goes beyond total, LDL, and HDL cholesterol. I cover important blood tests in more detail in Part 1 of this series.
Shifting nutrition is one of the best ways to reduce inflammation, calm the immune system, and improve metabolic health. Shift your diet away from processed, refined food and towards food with a high nutrient-density. Increase plant foods full of polyphenols and other antioxidants.
Dietary advice around heart health is confusing. Doctors still advise patients to follow low-fat and low-cholesterol diets despite an abundance of new research. What’s more important than the amount of fat in the diet is the types of fat in the context of the rest of the dietary pattern.
Let’s look at the types of fat:
A Mediterranean diet is a whole-food diet that includes quality protein, healthy fats, and fresh, seasonal produce. This is the type of diet people eat in blue zones that helps keep chronic disease away.
A green Mediterranean diet follows the same principles with an extra focus on plant-based foods, including plant proteins like beans, increasing plant diversity, and including microbiome support from fermented food and resistant starch.
A Mediterranean diet is naturally lower in carbohydrates than a standard American diet. While a low-carb diet only focuses on reducing carbohydrates, a Mediterranean diet includes many high-fiber and low-glycemic foods as a foundation of health. It’s considered a low-inflammatory diet.
A Mediterranean diet can also be a low glycemic diet, meaning that it doesn’t spike blood sugar out of range after a meal. Keeping blood sugar steady helps to prevent insulin resistance and cardiometabolic disease.
The key is to balance meals with protein, healthy fats, and fiber-rich produce while reducing or eliminating added sugar, refined carbohydrates (like flour), and high-fructose foods (like high fructose corn syrup).
Diet change works best in the context of an overall healthy lifestyle, that includes stress management, movement, and sleep.
Stress reduction is critical for metabolic health. High stress influences blood glucose, lipids, and drives chronic disease. Time in nature, meditation, hobbies, and time with friends are some ways to manage stress.
Walking even nine miles per week reduces increases HDL cholesterol and reduces LDL cholesterol for better balance. Even moderate exercise reduces the small, dense particles on the Cardio IQ Panel. (this information is from Chyrl’s notes, but needs a reference?)
Strength training is another critical tool for improving cardiometabolic health, especially for women as they get older and transition through menopause. Strength training builds muscle mass, which improves insulin function, body composition, and metabolism.
Getting quality sleep can be challenging because of stress, hormone changes, access to technology, and other factors, but prioritizing sleep is one of the best things you can do to lower stress on the system and improve cardiometabolic function.
Your functional medicine practitioner will help you identify the best supplements to support your unique health picture. There are many choices, from antioxidants like CoQ10 and alpha lipoic acid to microbiome supplements, including prebiotics and probiotics.
Niacin (vitamin B3) is a supplement to consider if you have high LDL levels. High doses of niacin may cause a pins-and-needles-type flushing effect, which tends to diminish over time.
I recommend taking niacin in the evening after a meal. Avoid taking niacin on an empty stomach.
Unfortunately, “no flush” niacin is not as effective as the standard niacin for lipid benefits. Flushing should diminish within a few weeks of use.
As you can see, a Mediterranean style diet, along with healthy lifestyle habits, and targeted supplements work as first-line therapy to protect from cardiometabolic disease and improve health. If you are ready for next steps, please contact The Fork Functional Medicine. We’d love to work with you!
Tuttolomondo, A., Simonetta, I., Daidone, M., Mogavero, A., Ortello, A., & Pinto, A. (2019). Metabolic and Vascular Effect of the Mediterranean Diet. International journal of molecular sciences, 20(19), 4716.
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