By Reginald Williams,
Special to the AFRO

Knowing your metabolic profile is critical to truly understanding your overall health.

Health is often viewed through the lens of external appearance. A person who is larger in physical size is often deemed “unhealthy,” while a lean person is generally thought to be healthy. While weight is a factor in determining optimal health, a more accurate wellness assessment is based on your metabolic data.

“People should be concerned with their metabolic profile because it can determine certain diseases that a person may have,” explained Ingra Lewis, RN, MSA, and immunization program manager. Metabolic is the chemical changes that take place in a cell or an organism.

A University of North Carolina study found that 88 percent of U.S. citizens are metabolically unhealthy. Metabolic health occurs when blood glucose and pressure, cholesterol (triglycerides and high- density lipoprotein levels) and waist circumference are positioned at ideal levels without the benefit of medication. Health experts maintain a healthy waist circumference for men less than 37 inches. Waistlines measuring 40 inches and above place a man’s health at risk. For women, 31.5 inches marks a healthy waistline, while above 34 increases health risk.

Although America collectively suffers from poor health, Black people are disproportionately affected. According to health experts, cultural ideologies are a huge driving force for poor metabolic health in Black people.

“Due to a lack of resources, education, and cultural beliefs, poor metabolic health leads to awful diseases that plague the Black community at alarming numbers,” explained Lewis.

Shernika Cobbs, a certified family nurse practitioner, said that diet often drives poor health. “Metabolic diseases are prominent in African American communities. We as Black people, especially Southern, eat that good ol’ soul food—fried foods, salty and sugary foods.”

While doctors typically peer into their patients’ genetic makeup, many health experts are more concerned about a patient’s genetic mindset rather than their gene pool. “Metabolic health can be controlled with better dietary and lifestyle choices,” Cobbs said.

Lewis added, “We keep on top of our metabolic health by making sure we get a yearly health assessment. If possible, make your way to a doctor when your body gives strange signals.”

One of the most important ways to stay abreast of your metabolic health is by regularly scheduled doctor visits and being intentional in discussing with your physician the results of your blood test. A comprehensive metabolic panel consisting of 14 blood tests, measures a host of chemical functions like albumin (a liver protein), calcium, carbon dioxide, potassium and sodium. Your panel profile will also provide the following health data.


According to the American Heart Association, cholesterol is an organic molecule called lipids that the body requires. It is the overabundance of the waxy substance that’s unhealthy. High cholesterol levels can narrow and harden the arteries, impeding blood flow. Subsequently, that causes the heart to work harder, causing an elevation in your blood pressure.

The lipid panel is represented by total cholesterol in conjunction with triglycerides and is interpreted as high-density lipoprotein (HDL), low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL).

Here are the preferred levels: total cholesterol 100-199 milligrams per deciliters of blood; triglycerides 0-149; HDL level should be greater than 39, with the ideal level above 60; LDL 0-99 but the lower your LDL, the better; and VLDL level should be in the 5-40 range.


Potassium fuels your cells with fluid. It provides electrolytes to the body. Low levels of potassium can cause blood pressure to rise. Optimal levels range between 3.5-5.2.


Glucose is an energy source and a component of carbohydrates. Optimal levels range between 65-99.

Vitamin D

According to Dr. Milliard J. Collier, a family practitioner, vitamin D deficiency is the primary cause of many problems, including cancer. He maintains that 90 percent of people nationwide have low levels of vitamin D. The optimal range is between 30-100, but the preferred level is above 50.

Hemoglobin A1c

The A1C test indicates the percentage of your red blood cells that have sugar-coated hemoglobin. The optimal level is less than 5.7 percent, 5.7 – 6.4 percent indicates a state of prediabetes and 6.5 percent or higher signals diabetes.

Blood Pressure

Your blood pressure, not a part of the metabolic testing, is a critical reading that is beneficial to know on a weekly, if not daily, basis. Knowing your blood pressure serves as an indicator of health.

According to Lisa Wilson, a registered nurse, blood pressure paints a portrait of overall health.

“Having high blood pressure could indicate a lack of physical activity, increased BMI, or an unhealthy diet; however, that’s not always the case,” Wilson said. “On the other hand, having low blood pressure, below 90/60, can also be dangerous.”

According to The American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association, blood pressure is measured by the systolic and diastolic levels.

Normal is a systolic reading below 120 and a diastolic below 80; elevated is a systolic reading below 120-129 and diastolic below 80; stage one hypertension is a systolic level of 130-139 and diastolic 80-89; stage two hypertension is a systolic of 140 or higher and a diastolic 90 or higher; and a hypertensive crisis requiring immediate medical attention is marked by blood pressure readings of 180 over 120.

Not knowing your numbers puts you at increased health risk. Knowing them allows you to avert significant health concerns.

Reginald Williams, the author of “A Marginalized Voice: Devalued, Dismissed, Disenfranchised & Demonized” writes on Black men and Holistic Health concerns. Please email or visit for more information.