November is National Diabetes Awareness Month. According to the CDC, approximately 122 million Americans are now living with diabetes or prediabetes. That’s about 36 % of the entire US population who live with a condition that can lead to kidney and heart disease, blindness, amputation, cognitive impairment, stroke and nerve damage. Unfortunately, 1 in 4 Americans with diabetes don’t know they have it and 90% of those with prediabetes are similarly unaware. But the good news is most cases of type 2 diabetes and prediabetes are preventable and reversible with lifestyle modification. So, the first step is to be in-the-know about your own health and then take action if you have warning signs!
Diabetes occurs when your pancreas can no longer keep up with your body’s demand for insulin. Insulin is the hormone that keeps your blood glucose (sugar) in check. Type 2 diabetes arises for many reasons, most of which are lifestyle-related. Type 1 diabetes, on the other hand, develops from an autoimmune process where the body attacks its’ own pancreatic beta cells decreasing or even halting insulin production.
Type 2 diabetes is a serious disease and early detection is the key to prevention and/or reversal. Routine testing is important, especially if:
1. You have a family history of diabetes
2. Have had consistent weight gain over the years, especially in your abdomen
3. You are experiencing any signs or symptoms of diabetes
· Blurred vision
· Excessive thirst
· Excessive urination
· Unexplained weight loss
· Extreme hunger
· Cold sweats
Conventional lab work for diabetes typically includes a fasting glucose and HgbA1c level. However, fasting glucose is not a great indicator of the entire picture of what’s happening inside your body, and HgbA1c levels can be skewed. Knowing those values is important, but another lab that is a better early indicator of how your body is responding to the glycemic load of your diet is the fasting insulin level.
Fasting insulin is a desirable lab value because it tells you how your pancreas is responding to your lifestyle. For example, if you have a high refined-carbohydrate diet, your body is going to pump out more insulin to cover that glucose. 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. At this point, your blood sugar is allowed to remain unchecked and diabetes can develop.
You can have an elevated fasting insulin level for years before diabetes is ever diagnosed. The good news is you can have your fasting insulin checked right now, insurance covers it, and you can get a head start on the lifestyle changes you need to make to prevent the development of diabetes. A fasting insulin level above 8 is an indication that lifestyle change measures are in order, but conventional lab values allow for a fasting insulin level of up to 24. If your fasting insulin is above 8 though, you are heading into dangerous territory when it comes to your metabolic health.
Let’s talk about conventional lab value ranges. “Normal” does not mean optimal. So, just because your lab results are “normal” doesn’t mean you’re safe from diabetes. 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 an indication of metabolic dysfunction. 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 8 out of 10 Type 2 Diabetes cases can be prevented with lifestyle modification. Determining which changes will provide the best results requires a closer look, so take control of your own health with a qualified provider who can help you interpret your test results and develop a plan for a life free from type 2 diabetes.
We are all different and have unique genetics, so a one-size-fits-all approach is not going to work. But the following changes can be helpful for most people:
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. Choose healthy fats like avocado and olives (and their oils), nuts, and coconut
4. Do not smoke
5. Move your body for 30 minutes 5 days per week
6. Limit alcohol intake
7. Practice meditation
If you want to learn more about your personal Type 2 Diabetes risk and how you can work to reverse metabolic dysfunction, contact us for a free discovery call.