Setting Health Goals for 2020? 5 Numbers That Are More Important Than Your WeightDec 20, 2019
Click here to watch a replay of this Facebook LIVE discussion.
You Will Learn
- Why weight is not the best number to track for your overall health.
- How often I recommend weighing yourself.
- What is metabolic syndrome?
- 5 numbers to track instead of weight to determine your overall health.
- How to get your free health assessment tracker form to help set your health goals for 2020.
You are 55-65% Water - Stop Worrying About the Scale
If you have a New Year’s Resolution, or a goal for 2020, to lose weight, I’m going to challenge that thought.
Water makes up about 55-65% of your total body weight. That's why wrestlers trying to cut weight quickly will spend time in saunas and become severely dehydrated, because that’s one of the fastest ways to lose weight.
While weight is important, I think in today’s culture it is overemphasized. You should not place your self-value in a number on a scale. You shouldn’t let that number determine if you are going to have a good day or a bad day. It's just a number, don’t let it have that much control over you.
I recommend clients use the scale once per week, in the morning, after they go to the bathroom, for accountability. Often I hear things like, “My weight is going up and down everyday, what am I doing wrong?”
I tell them they aren’t doing anything wrong, that is totally normal, and not to stress out about it because stress is counterproductive for weight loss.
If you are going to set health goals for 2020, I’m going to challenge you to dig deeper than just your weight. Take a more comprehensive view of your health and risk of developing disease.
One way to do this is to check for risk factors of metabolic syndrome.
What is Metabolic Syndrome?
Metabolic syndrome is also known as insulin resistance syndrome. It is a cluster of risk factors that when combined can drastically increase your chances of developing cardiovascular disease or type 2 diabetes.
Often these risk factors are looked at in isolation when in reality they have the same cause (insulin resistance), and treatment (lifestyle modifications to lower insulin resistance). If they are not addressed early enough, sometimes medications may be prescribed to help.
My goal for you is to become aware of the five primary numbers that are used to determine if you have metabolic syndrome. It’s important to note these are not the only risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Family history, smoking, age, post-menopausal status, and male gender, among others, are also risk factors.
Different organizations have criteria that differ slightly from each other regarding the diagnostic criteria for metabolic syndrome.
Below is a summary chart from the Huang, PL study referenced at the end of this article.
For simplicity, I’ll use the NCEP APT III diagnostic criteria of three or more of the following five criteria to determine if someone has metabolic syndrome.
1. Central Obesity
Central obesity is different than general obesity, which is determined by your body mass index (BMI), or a ratio of your height and weight.
Central obesity is measured by taking your waist circumference with a tape measurer. Central obesity measures your visceral fat, or the fat that is carried on the inside of your organ cavity. This is more dangerous than subcutaneous fat, or fat that is just under your skin. See the pictures below for reference.
Our bodies are not designed to carry a lot of visceral fat in our organ cavity.
The visceral fat essentially crowds and clogs up your internal organs, making it harder for them to do their jobs. This type of fat is also highly inflammatory.
The cutoff score to be considered a risk factor for metabolic syndrome is 35 inches for women and 40 for men but in order to be considered at a “low” risk for developing disease women should aim for 31.5 inches or less and men should aim for 37 inches or less.
2. High Blood Sugar
High blood sugar is also known as hyperglycemia. A fasting blood glucose of 100 mg/dl or higher indicates a risk factor for metabolic syndrome. If you get a fasting blood sugar higher than 100 mg/dl on two separate occasions, you would be considered prediabetic.
I like looking at the hemoglobin A1c more than just fasting blood glucose because the A1c shows your average blood sugars over the last three months. More on A1c numbers in this article for those who are interested.
3. High Triglycerides
Triglycerides are a type of fat found in your blood. Elevated levels above 150 mg/dl are considered a risk factor for metabolic syndrome.
4. Low HDL (Good) Cholesterol
HDL is good cholesterol because it travels throughout your bloodstream removing the bad cholesterol and reduces your risk for heart disease. The higher the HDL, the better. An HDL level over 60 mg/dl is considered protective against heart disease. An HDL level of 40 mg/dl or less for men and 50 mg/dl or less for women is considered a risk factor for metabolic syndrome.
5. Blood Pressure
If your systolic (top) blood pressure number is greater than 135, OR your bottom (diastolic) blood pressure number is greater than 85, this is considered a metabolic syndrome risk factor.
Putting it All Together - Disease Prevention
So often, people are diagnosed with medications before they really try lifestyle changes. For doctors, it is routine to see a patient that has elevated numbers and just prescribe a medication because that is quick and easy, at least in the short-term.
But what about the potential side-effects of those medications? Many blood sugar or blood pressure medications make weight loss harder, when weight loss is usually exactly what these patients need to lower their numbers.
What about the potential for polypharmacy as that person ages (i.e. taking multiple medications that can have interactions with each other).
How about the financial cost of those medications?
My record was 32 medications. A patient I had in home care therapy had 32 prescription medications! Thank goodness he had a competent care taker to keep track of them all.
One study by Petrovic M et al found that 17/100 hospital admissions for older adults are due to an adverse drug reaction, 88% of those are considered preventable.
This means that 15/100 admissions for older adults are due to a preventable injury caused by taking a medication.
One simple way to reduce the risk of hospitalizations for older adults is to reduce the need for medications by preventing disease in the first place!
That’s my mission, to help adults 50+ reach their weight loss and wellness goals so they can age without the fear of poor health holding them back from the things they need, want, or love to do. I want to help them be proactive about their health now so they can stay active, independent, and engaged as long as possible.
So in 2020, I hope you dig a little deeper with your wellness goals and focus on more numbers than just your weight. You can reduce your risk of disease. You can improve your numbers. You can prevent the need for medications. You can even lower your dosages of current medications.
The easiest way to do that is by losing weight through an approach that lowers the underlying cause of all these risk factors...insulin resistance.
If you are ready to take action on this information, here are your marching orders.
Your Action Steps
- Download my free Health Assessment Tracker Form to start tracking your numbers comprehensively. I’ve already put the “norms” in there and a goal column.
- Sign up for my FREE masterclass, The 3 Behind-the-Scenes Secrets to Lose Weight After 50. It will be about 90 minutes where I share with you my method to help adults over 50 lose weight by optimizing their health habits and lowering insulin resistance.
- Huang PL. A comprehensive definition for metabolic syndrome. Dis Model Mech. 2009;2(5-6):231–237. doi:10.1242/dmm.001180
- First belly fat picture: https://bodybuilding-wizard.com/subcutaneous-vs-visceral-fat
- Second belly fat picture: https://www.quora.com/If-visceral-fat-is-bad-for-our-health-then-why-does-our-body-store-it-there-in-the-first-place
- Petrovic M, van der Cammen T, Onder G. Adverse drug reactions in older people.: detection and prevention. (2012). Drugs Aging, 29:453-62.