April 13, 2012

Crave Sweets? Home Screen Your Risk for Pre-Diabetes.

Ice Cream Sandwiches courtesy of Mar_

I have many patients who come in to see me with no physical complaints and, once screened, are revealed to be either pre-diabetic or even diabetic.

Unfortunately, your annual blood test could easily miss a pre-diabetic condition.

This is a huge oversight in the medical system. That’s why it’s so important to screen yourself and your family for rising blood sugars on a regular basis—even if you eat healthy and exercise enough.

As I mentioned in the first part of our Pre-Diabetes Series, rising blood sugar—even within the “normal range”—has been shown to increase the risk of dying of a heart attack of stroke by 40%. (2)

Join me this week in the second installment of our Pre-Diabetes Series, as I walk you through the simple process of self-screening your blood sugar at home.

The Problem with Current Diabetes and Pre-Diabetes Test Ranges

While diabetes is climbing at an alarming rate, the blood sugar ranges that are used to screen for pre-diabetes are outdated, and many of those at risk are slipping through the cracks. Today, close to 90 million people have pre-diabetes and 90% of them do not know it, according to the CDC. (1)

The “normal” ranges for fasting blood sugar—that’s your blood sugar first thing in the morning before breakfast—have been between 80-120mg/dL for many years. Once the blood sugar rises above 125mg/dL, you are diagnosed with diabetes. Over 110mg/dl, you are considered “pre-diabetic”.

Although some experts have assigned fasting blood sugar over 100mg/dL as pre-diabetic, other labs and doctors don’t screen for pre-diabetes until you are over 110mg/dL.

The problem is that the risk for most degenerative disease such as cardiovascular disease and death rises significantly with fasting blood sugar above 85mg/dL. (3)

One study looked at the fasting blood sugar levels of nearly 2,000 men, over a 22-year period. Men with fasting glucose levels over 85 mg/dL had a 40% increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease. (4)

The same study indicated that with fasting blood sugar between 85-90mg/dL, there is a 20% increased risk of dying of a stroke or heart attack; from 90-95mg/dL there is another 20% risk of dying of a stroke or heart attack.

Yet the medical establishment still calls fasting blood sugar under 99mg/dL “safe,” and there are no safety nets or alarm bells of pre-diabetes until you reach 100 or 110mg/dL.

Cause for Concern – Some Blood Sugar Statistics

One team of researchers found that the risk of developing diabetes itself was increased more than seven-fold in people with fasting glucose levels of 105-109 mg/dL, compared to people with fasting glucose levels of less than 85 mg/dL. (6)

•    An analysis of 1,800 maturing individuals revealed that coronary artery disease rates were the same in both diabetes and pre-diabetes. (7)

•    A similar analysis of 33,230 men found that high glucose within the “normal” range was independently associated with a 38% increase in deaths from digestive tract cancers. (8)

•    In another study of 46,000 non-diabetic middle aged men, over 80% of them had fasting blood sugars above 85mg/dL. (5)

The Truly Safe Range

It can take years for the fasting blood sugars to creep up from between 70-85mg/dl to 110 or above.

To stay out of the danger zone for risks of diabetes and associated degenerative disease, the truly safe range for blood sugar is between 70-85mg/dL.

Dangers of After Meal Blood Sugar Spikes

Studies also show that the dangers of blood sugar spiking after a meal may be as harmful as fasting blood sugars above 85mg/dL. Blood sugars that rise over 21 mg/dL above normal (140mg/dL), may increase the risk of heart attack by 58% and cardiac death by 26%. (9)  Healthy blood sugar two hours after a meal should be lower than 140mg/dL.

A Gaping Hole in Medicine

I have been shocked by the number of patients who come in to see me, who consider themselves healthy eaters and turn out to be pre-diabetic.

This is a huge oversight in how we screen the public for the risk of diabetes and associated degenerative disease. Basically, our current system waits until you are on the brink of type II (previously called “adult onset”—no longer the case now that younger and younger age groups are affected) diabetes before anything is done.

My goal is to teach you a simple home screening strategy, so that if you notice that fasting blood sugar starts to creep up, you can take action with the necessary dietary changes to bring it back into the truly “safe range” between 70-85mg/dl, and possibly prevent diabetes and heart disease.

Home Screening – Your Best Defense  

Nowadays a blood sugar monitoring calculator can be purchased from $20-50, including test strips. We sell them at Lifespa.com, but you can also get them at most pharmacies.

The simplest test is called a Fasting Glucose Test. This is a blood sugar sample taken when you first wake up in the morning. The result is a great screening number because the blood sugar tends to be higher in the morning, and this is one of the first indicators of rising blood sugar and pre-diabetes.

Use the following glucose ranges as a reference for your test results.

Glucose Ranges:

•    Conventionally considered Normal Fasting Glucose range: 65-99mg/dL

•    Best fasting Glucose range: 80-85mg/dL

•    Best two hour after meal glucose: below 140mg/dL • Increased Risk: 90-100mg/dL.

•    Early Pre-diabetic Fasting Glucose range 100-110mg/dL

•    Pre-Diabetic Fasting Glucose range: 110-125mg/dL (1 out of 3 Americans falls into this range).

•    Diabetic fasting Glucose range: above 126mg/dL

Taking Action

While Pre-Diabetes is reversible in many cases with extreme lifestyle, dietary changes and supplementation, it makes sense to be aware of this monster way before it arrives. By testing the fasting blood sugar regularly, you can detect any blood sugar issues early and make simple dietary adjustments to optimize your blood sugar.

Once you’ve made dietary adjustments, regularly testing your first morning glucose is a great way to evaluate the efficacy of those changes. Avoid the simple sugars, any sweeteners, fruits, and short chain carbohydrates like potatoes, corn, and white rice for a few days, weeks or months to bring those numbers back into the low eighties.

Soon, by eating more whole, non-processed foods and avoiding the hidden sugars (see more about hidden sugars in last week’s article, “Could You be Pre-Diabetic?”) you will happily watch your fasting blood sugar stabilize into the safe ranges.


1. Available at http://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2011/p0126_diabetes.html. Accessed November 3, 2011.
2,6,7,8  Becker, Daniel. Suppress deadly after meal blood sugar spikes. Feb. 2012
3,4 Bjornholt JV, Erikssen G, Aaser E, et al. Fasting blood glucose: an underestimated risk factor for cardiovascular death. Results from a 22-year follow-up of healthy nondiabetic men. Diabetes Care. 1999 Jan;22(1):45-9.
5. Nichols GA, Hillier TA, Brown JB. Normal fasting plasma glucose and risk of type 2 diabetes diagnosis. Am J Med. 2008 Jun;121(6):519-24.

Editor: Lynn Hasselberger


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