*This article discusses type 2 diabetes, not type 1 diabetes.*
You probably know at least one person who suffers from type 2 diabetes. You are always worried about them, and make sure any meals you have with them will not raise their blood sugar levels. The only relief is the insulin your loved one takes. But that may not be a comfort for much longer.
Insulin Shortage by 2030
Researchers at Stanford University predict a serious insulin shortage by 2030. The tests simulated the predicted rise in type 2 diabetes from 2018 to 2030 using data from the International Diabetes Federation and several studies that represents more than 60% of the type 2 diabetes population.
From these studies, the estimated increase in the type 2 diabetes population is 406 million in 2018 to 511 million in 2030.
Of that population, about 79 million will need insulin to control the disease. But only 38 million will be able to get insulin if the current production rate of insulin remains as it is.
Who has Type 2 Diabetes
A common reaction to health news like the insulin shortage is, ‘this doesn’t affect me.” But it very likely does.
1 in 3, or 84 million, Americans have prediabetes! Worse, 90% of those with prediabetes don’t know it!
You really need to know if you have prediabetes because half of prediabetics develop type 2 diabetes.
What Causes Diabetes
Before going into how to know whether you have prediabetes or type 2 diabetes, it is beneficial to know how diabetes can develop.
The causes of diabetes can all be boiled down to insulin resistance. Insulin is integral to the body’s absorption of glucose. Glucose is the body’s preferred source of energy and it needs the help of insulin to provide the energy. Insulin carries glucose to the cells and tells the cells to allow the glucose in.
When the body no longer needs glucose, insulin transports glucose to the liver for storage where it is converted into glycogen. Insulin is also the primary hormone that tells the liver when to release the stored glucose.
What Causes Insulin Resistance?
Insulin resistance occurs because of high levels of sugar or glucose in the bloodstream. The typical modern diet is high in sugar and carbs. This results in the body adjusting to a high level of glucose and telling the pancreas to produce more insulin in order to transport the extra glucose to all the cells of the body.
Eventually though, as more and more insulin is being pumped into the bloodstream, the cells lose insulin sensitivity--needing more insulin to deliver the same amount of glucose. This makes glucose stay in the bloodstream longer, keeping blood sugar levels high. To counteract this, the pancreas will release more insulin. But the pancreas can only produce extra insulin for so long before it gets tired or shuts down.
Eventually, blood sugar levels remain high with nowhere to go.
Those at Risk
Other factors that indicate an individual is at risk of diabetes are:
- Overweight or obese
- Lack of physical activity
- Age 45 or older
- Parents or siblings with diabetes
- Abnormal cholesterol levels
- History of gestational diabetes
- History of heart disease or stroke
- High blood pressure
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
- Acanthosis Nigricans
Certain ethnicities are also at a higher risk than others. These ethnicities include:
- African American
- American Indian
- Native Hawaiian
- Alaska Native
- Asian American
- Pacific Islander
It is recommended people get tested annually for diabetes starting at about age 40. But doctors will often begin testing earlier if a patient shows signs of risk earlier or are of the ethnicities listed above.
Signs and Symptoms
Unfortunately, most signs of insulin resistance will not show until the prediabetic or diabetic stage has been reached. The signs that do show are:
- Large Waist
- High Blood Pressure
- High triglycerides
- High insulin levels
Signs that do not show noticeable until the prediabetic or diabetic stage is reached are:
- Increases thirst and/or hunger
- Blurry vision
- Increased urination
- Cuts, sores, or bruises that take longer to heal or do not heal at all
Insulin Resistance also increases the risk for several health issues.
- Cardiovascular Diseases
- Heart attack
- Heart disease
- And more
How to Know If You are Prediabetic
There are several tests that can be performed to assess blood sugar levels. All the tests involve drawing blood.
The A1C test measures your average blood sugar over a two to three-month period. This allows for greater accuracy with the results. Getting a result of 5.6% or lower indicates healthy levels of blood sugar. Getting between 5.7% and 6.4% indicates prediabetes, while getting 6.5% or more indicates diabetes.
Fasting Glucose Test
This test is performed after the subject has not had anything to eat or drink for at least 8 hours. The indicators for this test are as follows: under 100 milligrams/deciliter (mg/dL) are normal, 100 to 125 mg/dL indicates prediabetes, and 126 mg/dL or more indicates diabetes. Results in the prediabetes or diabetes range usually require a second test to confirm the results.
Fasting Insulin Test
This test functions exactly the same as the fasting glucose test, but this tests you insulin levels. Insulin levels will be high long before blood work shows high blood sugar levels. In fact, you can tell years before prediabetes occurs how much of a risk you may be at for prediabetes. This test should be taken in conjunction with a fasting glucose test.
The good results for this test is 8 or below. 4 to 5 are the best results. 8 or above indicates some level of insulin resistance.
Glucose Tolerance Test
Unlike the other two tests, a blood draw occurs before the test is begun to determine blood sugar levels. Then a premeasured sugary drink is given to the patient. After 2 hours blood sugar levels are checked again.
The results of this test are also given in mg/dL. If you get 139 or lower, you have normal levels. Prediabetic numbers fall between 140 to 199. Getting 200 or more indicates diabetes.
This test is most commonly used for diagnosing gestational diabetes.
Here’s the fact people seldom realize about type 2 diabetes: it is preventable and often curable! But the even better news is you don’t need medication to do it! You only need insulin medication if your pancreas has reached a point of being unable to produce enough insulin on its own.
But, if you are prediabetic or not diabetic at all, all you need to do to prevent diabetes is make lifestyle changes. Here’s the hard part though, with fast food and processed food more available than ever, it is hard to make the lifestyle changes necessary to prevent diabetes. But it can be done.
As mentioned above, some genetic and family histories make avoiding type 2 diabetes especially difficult. Making these lifestyle changes can still help you, but if you need more guidance talk with your doctor.
Fats, Protein, and Fiber
The foods that most negatively affect blood sugar levels are carbohydrates (carbs). Carbs, sugars, and starches, especially when heavily processed like bread, increase blood sugar levels and insulin resistance. If you need carbs, it is better to choose carbs from vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and dairy products. When baking, it is better to use unrefined whole grain flour, coconut flour, or almond flour.
But you really do not need a lot of carbs in your diet. It is better to focus on protein and fat. Protein is primarily essential for muscle health. But protein can sometimes turn into carbs, thus raising blood sugar levels.
Fat does not. Healthy fat, saturated fat, is the best source of energy for the body. The energy from fatty foods will last longer than energy from carbs. Fat also makes you feel full longer and lessens the temptation to eat high carb snacks.
Another element of include in your diet is fiber. Unlike fat and protein which should replace carbs in your diet, fiber slows down to absorption of glucose. In slowing down sugar absorption, fiber aids insulin by making it so cells are slowly fed instead of overstuffed.
Giving up carbs and sweets can be difficult. But there are ways to still have a healthy sweet treat. This is accomplished by using natural sweeteners. One of the best natural sweeteners is monk fruit.
Unlike most natural sweeteners, it is not sweetened with fructose. Fructose is the worst form of sugar. Monk fruit is instead sweetened with antioxidants. Antioxidants protect your cells from damage and even help heal cells from damage by reducing inflammation that can be caused by high blood sugar.
We all know exercise is good for us. But this is why it helps prevent diabetes: it helps your body use blood sugar. Exercise is key because when you contract a muscle, it forces glucose into the muscle cells without the help of insulin. This causes you to reduce to amount of insulin needed to help glucose into the cells throughout the body.
Consistent, long-term exercise will make cells more responsive to insulin.
Every stress eater knows how detrimental stress eating can be for your weight. Surrounding yourself with sugar-free, low carb and fresh, healthy foods will help reduce the effects of stress eating, but overeating should still be avoided.
Another reason to avoid stress, is excessive or long-lasting stress can raise blood sugar levels even without the aid of stress eating. When you are stressed, a stress hormone called cortisol is released causing you to enter the fight or flight mode. One of the many functions of cortisol is to tell the body to produce glucose by breaking down the stored glucose in the liver called glycogen. When you are stressed and not physically active, you blood sugar levels will remain high. This is especially detrimental with long-term or chronic stress.
Sleep is essential for maintaining health and managing hormone levels. Lack of sleep can raise the stress and hunger hormone. Also, lack of sleep can cause a dependence on sugary foods and other energy boosters like caffeine; as well as, stimulate the production of cortisol. Simply getting seven to nine hours of sleep can greatly improve your blood sugar levels.
Let’s Change Now
We are only 12 years away from the predicted insulin shortage. Rather than relying on the government and corporations to fix the problem, let’s avoid the shortage by preventing insulin resistance and diabetes in ourselves.
To learn more about how to prevent type 2 diabetes, read “The Difference Between Keto and Low Carb.” A keto diet can help you lessen your intake of carbs and even prevent and reverse type 2 diabetes.
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