Is high blood sugar damaging and aging your body?
You don’t have to be a diabetic to suffer the damaging effects of high blood sugar. New research has shown that blood sugar much lower than that officially labelled diabetic still significantly harms your body and shortens your lifespan. Your doctor may have told you that your blood sugar is normal, but it could still be putting your health at risk.
The incidence of diabetes is rising rapidly in every country on the planet. It is estimated there are currently more than 285 million people in the world with diabetes. By 2030 this figure is expected to leap to 439 million. Some researchers think this is quite a conservative estimate and in reality the figures will be much worse. It is also estimated that only around half of the people in the world with diabetes are diagnosed.
You are probably well aware of the health consequences associated with diabetes: increased risk of heart attacks and strokes, blindness, kidney damage, nerve and blood vessel damage, dementia and others. However, you don’t have to be a diabetic to develop these diseases; they are all very common degenerative diseases that people associate with aging.
What if your “normal” blood sugar isn’t so normal?
If you have ever had a fasting blood sugar test, you may know that the so called normal reference range is 65 – 97 mg/dL (3.6 – 5.4 mmol/L). If your fasting blood sugar is 99 mg/dL (5.5 mmol/L) or higher, you are said to have insulin resistance (also called pre-diabetes, syndrome X or metabolic syndrome). Your doctor would probably not mention that because most doctors consider it unimportant and not serious. You would probably be told you are fine and healthy.
You would only be diagnosed as a diabetic if your fasting blood sugar reached 125 mg/dL (6.9 mmol/L) or higher. Interestingly, research has shown that elevated blood sugar at not yet diabetic levels still creates enormous harm to your body.
The problem with fasting blood sugar tests
A one off fasting blood sugar test is a very poor indicator of what your blood sugar level is 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It is a poor indicator of your glucose tolerance. A fasting blood test doesn’t indicate how high your blood sugar gets after a meal. New research has shown that blood sugar spikes after each meal can significantly raise your risk of heart attacks, strokes, eye damage and cancer. If you eat sugar and high carbohydrate foods regularly, your blood sugar is probably spiking quite high after these meals. The longer your blood sugar is elevated, the more time it has to do damage to your body. People who eat a lot of sugar and grains have elevated blood sugar for a large part of the day. This may not be picked up by a fasting blood test.
A more reliable test that gives a better indicator of what your blood sugar has been day and night for the past three months is called a glycated haemoglobin test, also known as HbA1c. Your doctor can order this test and ideally your result should be below 5.5%.
It is interesting how the majority of people know their cholesterol level, yet aren’t aware of their blood sugar level. Focus on your blood sugar instead; it is a far more reliable indicator of how long and how well you will live.
Why is high blood sugar dangerous?
Research has shown that high-normal blood sugar increases the risk of the following diseases:
• Cardiovascular disease
You are at greater risk of having a stroke if your fasting blood sugar is 83 mg/dL (4.6 mmol/L) or higher. Every 18 mg/dL (0.9 mmol/L) increase beyond 83 mg/dL gives you an additional 27 percent greater risk of dying from a stroke. The more sugar you eat, the greater your risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Diabetics are at significantly greater risk of all forms of dementia. Even among non-diabetics, the higher your blood sugar, the greater your risk of cognitive impairment.
• Eye disease
Macular degeneration, cataracts and retinopathy are all more likely to develop if you have elevated blood sugar.
High blood sugar causes damage to the nerves of the body, particularly the small nerves in the extremities of the body. Painful, burning feet and legs are common symptoms of high blood sugar.
• Kidney disease
High blood sugar, obesity and high blood pressure are the most damaging factors to the kidneys. Kidney function naturally declines with age, however elevated blood sugar speeds up the damage. Research has shown that spikes in blood sugar can promote more fibrous kidney tissue (which leads to kidney disease) than constant elevated blood sugar.
• Erectile dysfunction
Elevated blood sugar causes damage to the nerves and blood vessels in the penis. This is a very common condition in diabetics and pre-diabetics.
• A significant proportion of people with type 2 diabetes are undiagnosed, therefore if you have not had your blood sugar checked in the last two years, ask your doctor for a test. You should get a fasting blood sugar test and also an HbA1c test. Your blood sugar should be below 99 mg/dL (5.5 mmol/L) and your HbA1c should be below 5.5%.
• Reduce the amount of carbohydrate rich food you eat. Sugar, bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, breakfast cereals, sugary drinks and anything made of flour will all raise your blood glucose level after you eat them. The average person eats far too much of these foods. If you are carrying excess weight around your waist that is a great indicator your blood sugar level is probably climbing. Follow the lower carbohydrate, higher protein eating plan in our book Diabetes Type 2: You Can Reverse It Naturally.
• Keep your blood sugar level balanced throughout the day. It is important to avoid spikes in blood sugar after meals. You can achieve this by limiting the amount of carbohydrate you eat, exercising regularly and taking one Glicemic Balance capsule with each meal. The herbs and nutrients in this formula help to improve insulin efficiency, and therefore keep your blood sugar balanced. Glicemic Balance also helps to reduce cravings and hunger.
• Look after your liver. A diagnosis of fatty liver often arrives years before a diabetes diagnosis. If your liver is unhealthy, you will have great difficulty controlling your blood sugar. It will rise too high and you’ll be prone to hypoglycaemia and sugar cravings. Livatone capsules help to improve the health and efficiency of your liver.
• Try to get enough good quality sleep. Adults require 7.5 to 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. If you don’t get that, you are far more likely to gain weight and develop high blood sugar. Sleep deprivation raises the hunger hormones in your body and impairs the fat burning hormones. If you struggle to achieve good sleep, see my book Tired of Not Sleeping?
The above statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease.
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Polhill TS, Saad S, Poronnik S, Fulcher GR, Pollock CR. Short-term peaks in glucose promote renal fibrogenesis independently of total glucose exposure. Am J Physiol Renal Physiol. 2004 Aug;287(2):F268-73.