Of course it’s good for your health to get your blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol or weight down if they’re too high. But doing that could literally make you more likely to have a heart attack, stroke or even die…if you’re also doing something else. Here’s what you need to know.

Weight, blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol are all measures of health called metabolic parameters. A new study from Korea looked at the metabolic parameters in national health service records on 6.7 million Koreans, average age 43, who had no history of diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol. The researchers then followed the participants for 5.5 years, looking for fluctuations—meaning changes in one direction that then reversed and went back in the other direction—in their blood sugar, cholesterol, systolic blood pressure (the upper number) and body mass index (BMI, an estimate of body fat based on height and weight). The researchers called these yo-yo changes “variability.” For purposes of the study, they defined “no variability” as fluctuations that were less than 5%…and “high variability” as the highest quartile of fluctuations.

Results: High variability in any of the four metabolic parameters was associated with an increased risk for heart attack, stroke and death from any cause. For instance, participants with high variability in weight had a 53% higher risk of dying during the course of the study compared with participants with no variability in weight.

Also, the greater the number of highly-variable metabolic parameters a participant had, the greater the risk of dying. Compared to participants with no variability in any of their metabolic parameters, participants with high variability in all four—even if some of the changes were improvements—were…

  • 41% more likely to have a stroke
  • 43% more likely to have a heart attack
  • 127% more likely to die from any cause.

The researchers noted that women and older adults were more likely to have high variability in their metabolic parameters.

Bottom line: It’s normal for your weight, blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol to not be exactly the same from checkup to checkup. But this new research gives a compelling reason to keep these figures from bouncing around. The message is to do everything you can to make your levels healthier and keep them there—such as following a healthy diet that keeps weight off.

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