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  • Kellie Blake RDN, LD

Should You Have Your Fasting Insulin Level Checked?

November is National Diabetes Month. There’s no better time to discuss the facts about diabetes than right before the holidays! Diabetes is a chronic disease that can be prevented and actually reversed with lifestyle modification, with the exception of Type 1 diabetes, which is an autoimmune condition. Diabetes occurs when your pancreas can no longer keep up with your demand for insulin. Insulin is the hormone that keeps your blood glucose (sugar) in check. Your blood glucose level can be affected in numerous ways, but is mostly related to the foods you eat and your lifestyle. Over 30 million Americans have diabetes, but there are also a startling number of people who are unaware that they have prediabetes. If left untreated or unmanaged, diabetes can lead to numerous complications such as kidney disease, heart disease, blindness, amputation, cognitive impairment, stroke and nerve damage.

Diabetes is a serious disease and early detection is the key to prevention and/or reversal, but simple changes can improve the outcome or even reverse the disease! The first place to start is to get tested for diabetes, especially if you have a family history, have had consistent weight gain over the years (especially in your abdominal area), or if you are experiencing any signs or symptoms of diabetes: Blurred vision, excessive thirst, excessive urination, unexplained weight loss, extreme hunger, dizziness, cold sweats, and fainting, just to name a few.

Conventional lab work for diabetes typically includes a fasting glucose and HgbA1c level. However, fasting glucose is overall not a great indicator of the whole picture of what is happening inside your body, and HgbA1c levels can be skewed. Knowing those values can be important, but a fasting insulin level can be more helpful in determining how efficiently your body is managing your blood sugar.

The fasting insulin is a desirable lab value because it can give an indication of how your pancreas is responding to your lifestyle long before diabetes develops. For example, if you have a high refined carbohydrate diet, your pancreas is going to pump out more insulin to cover that glucose (sugar) and your fasting insulin level will be elevated. Your pancreas can keep up with this task for quite some time, but at some point, the demand is too great and your pancreas becomes overwhelmed. Your blood sugar is then allowed to remain unchecked and diabetes is diagnosed. You can have an elevated fasting insulin level for years before you develop diabetes. The good news is you can have your fasting insulin level checked, insurance covers it and if it's elevated, you can get a head start on the lifestyle changes you need to make to prevent diabetes. A fasting insulin level above 8 generally suggests the demand on your pancreas to control blood sugar is too great and you are at risk of developing diabetes.

When it comes to conventional lab values, “normal” does not equal optimal. Your lab results may seem normal, but there could be a storm brewing inside your body. For example, a fasting glucose of less than 100mg/dL is considered “normal,” but research indicates that a fasting blood glucose of 95 – 99mg/dL means you are 2.33 times more likely to develop diabetes than someone with a fasting blood sugar below 95mg/dL. In addition, a HgbA1c of 4.5 – 5.6% is considered “normal,” however if you have a HgbA1c of 5.5 or greater, it is appropriate to start clinical measures. These subtle shifts are often missed by your physician, so it’s important for you to be aware of how to interpret the numbers for yourself. You definitely should not take those “normal” lab values at face value. Remember that eighty percent of diabetes cases can be prevented with lifestyle changes! Determining which changes will provide the best results for you personally requires a closer look. Take control of your own health with a qualified functional provider who can help you interpret your test results and develop a plan for an awesome life free of disease. By taking into account your personal history, current lifestyle, and genetics, a functional provider can help you determine which type of testing will provide the best information to create your lifestyle plan.

A plan for diabetes prevention or reversal is unique to each individual, but this is a good place to start:

  1. Choose nutrient dense, high fiber, low glycemic index foods

  2. Avoid refined carbohydrates (sweets, regular sugar-sweetened beverages, white bread, white pasta, white rice, junk-foods)

  3. Avoid sugar substitutes

  4. Choose healthy fats

  5. Do not smoke

  6. Exercise for 30 minutes 5 days per week

  7. Limit alcohol intake

If you would like a personalized plan or need help interpreting your lab values, click the contact page for an appointment. We offer free 15 minute phone consultations to determine the best plan of action. Lifestyle change and nutrition are powerful tools in preventing and reversing chronic disease!

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