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Thursday
Jan292015

What's the Real Impact of Glucose Imbalance?

If you answer yes or “unsure” to more than three of the following questions, this article is for you.

  • Are you irritable if you miss a meal - or jittery/anxious if you go more than 4 hours without food?
  • Do you crave carbohydrates (e.g. bread, potatoes, or pasta) or sweets excessively (daily)?
  • Are you calmer after eating?
  • Have you been diagnosed with diabetes, insulin resistance, or metabolic syndrome?
  • Are you more than 20 pounds over your ideal body weight with the majority of weight gain around your mid-section?
  • Do you have an elevated waist to hip ratio?
  • Do you have sporadic energy boosts and drops throughout the day?
  • Do you feel unusual thirst or hunger?
  • Do you get a headache if you go too long without eating?
  • Is your fasting blood sugar above 90mg/dL?

The Long but Forseeable Road to Diabetes

You see, it’s simply not good to have addict-style cravings for certain foods daily, to experience wild fluctuations in energy levels or hunger, or to carry around noticeable extra fat in your mid-section. These situations may approach "statistically average" as rates of lifestyle disease continue to climb, but they aren't good for you, and they don't bode well for your future health. That’s the bad news.

The good news is it doesn’t have to be this way. You have the power right here, right now to spare yourself the whole messy cascade that will rob you of your health, productivity, and vitality.

Pre-diabetes, impaired glucose tolerance, insulin resistance, and impaired fasting glucose: they all mean the same thing. Once you’ve reached one of these road markers, a formal diagnosis of type 2 diabetes is just down that road—statistically imminent—unless you veer off the lifestyle and dietary route that got you this far.

The thing is, that route is often the “norm,” the well-traveled road of the Standard American Diet and its corresponding lifestyle. The S.A.D., to use its appropriate acronym, often produces a debilitating rollercoaster of energy driven by imbalanced dietary carbohydrate intake, chronic sleep debt, and stressful living. Average as it might be, the path leads, for too many of us, to glucose imbalance and its subsequent diagnoses.

If you’re not yet familiar with how fluctuating blood glucose numbers can affect you, take about five minutes to read chapter two of Eat Well. Live Well. entitled “A S.A.D. Story” or one of our previous blog articles, “What You Should Know about Your Blood Glucose Levels.”

Most of us are familiar with the fasting glucose checkups offered with our annual physicals, but few of us know that glucose is one of the last markers to drift out of range as insulin resistance progresses towards diabetes.

How many of you have heard your doctor comment on your blood sugar being “borderline”? What does it mean if he/she wants to just “keep an eye on it”? The University of Michigan Diabetes Research & Training Center (along with the International Diabetes Center in Minneapolis) illustrates that insulin resistance likely festers for ten to thirty years before an abnormal blood glucose is observed! The standard medical protocol of “following” at-risk populations isn’t enough to prevent the wholly preventable.

 

 

Lesser Known Impacts of Disrupted Glucose

What’s more is these “early” stages of disrupted glucose metabolism commonly co-exist with elevated blood pressure, excessive body fat (especially visceral or “belly” fat), fluctuating energy and moods, and abnormal blood lipid (cholesterol) patterns. According to a review study published in the World Journal of Diabetes, trouble balancing glucose doesn’t only portend diabetes risk but also influences inflammation, cholesterol patterns, and heart disease risk:

“Patients with insulin resistance are likely to have impaired fasting plasma glucose levels, which in turn enhance the prevalence of more atherogenic, small dense low-density lipoprotein (LDL) particles. Central obesity and insulin resistance form the basis of the pathophysiology of dyslipidemia, lack of glucose tolerance, and the existence of chronic subclinical inflammation and hypertension in metabolic syndrome.” (Arora, 2010) 

In other words, dysfunctional glucose and insulin systems also make a mess of your cholesterol patterns. (Remember, too, your physician’s standard method of measuring cholesterol doesn’t identify dangerous shifts in particle size or number like the NMR panel does.)

An earlier, more practical method of identifying those at highest risk for diabetes is measuring and tracking trends for fasting insulin levels. Catching and addressing insulin resistance earlier can encourage more effective interventions and spare individuals the more serious, even life-altering symptoms of full-blown diabetes.

The End Costs

Then there’s the bottom line. Every year $245 billion is spent on diabetes diagnosis and care in the U.S.—the staggering cost of reactive care. Yet, diabetes like heart disease is largely preventable. We’d do better to invest instead—as individuals and as a society—in prevention.

When it comes to the individual’s cost of a diabetes diagnosis, the numbers range between $60-$200 a month for out-of-pocket medications and supplies. Given that the average age of diagnosis for type 2 diabetes is 46 years and life expectancy hovers around 78, many people live with diabetes for over 30 years! Even at the lower end of the cost range ($60/month), that’s $23,040 in medications and supplies alone.

The critical question becomes this: how much could be done—how much money saved, how much health, productivity and vitality spared—if the markers could been caught earlier? How would an individual’s life be different if he/she could’ve been told years—even decades—earlier that he/she needed to make critical changes? According to the estimates and averages, patterns leading to diabetes could be starting in the teenage years. Knowing this, what more could we be doing?

If you had the chance to know what your glucose balance (or imbalance) suggested for your long-term health, would you take it? Do you want to know what your fasting insulin today says about your future risk for inflammation, heart disease, or diabetes? Are you prepared to change that outlook? You can follow your fasting insulin trends. You can know—and change your health prospects.

Talk to your doctor and our staff about the Men’s or Women’s Longevity & Vitality Premium lab panelsFind out, take charge and live well.

In health, Paul Kriegler, RD - Corporate Registered Dietician

This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.

 

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