As We See It
Tragedy of Delayed PreventionMay 2019
By William Faloon
We at Life Extension® interact with new supporters who come to us with serious disorders, such as failing kidneys.
A record number of Americans now require dialysis treatments to remove waste products from their blood. Dialysis is not nearly as efficient as healthy kidneys that work around the clock.1,2
To put this into perspective, the five-year survival rate for patients who start dialysis was only 36% compared to 86% for those who received a kidney transplant.3 Neither scenario comes close to having healthy kidneys.
Type II diabetes is a risk factor for kidney disease. Around 10%-40% of type II diabetics will experience kidney failure.4 Research shows that before diabetes is diagnosed, higher-than-normal blood sugar levels damage kidneys.5
A significant part of the American population (about 27%) has blood sugar levels that are higher-than-normal—but not high enough to meet the threshold for type II diabetes.6
This “prediabetic” phase places people at risk for kidney disease,5,7 potentially crippling neuropathy,8,9 heart disorders,10,11 cancer,12,13 and stroke.14
Our longstanding position is that the term “prediabetes” should be abolished. Anyone with less-than-optimal glucose, insulin and hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) blood levels should aggressively intervene to reverse these glycemic markers.
Instead of this logical approach, what usually happens is that elevated glucose and insulin smolder for years.
In many of these cases, type II diabetes is not diagnosed until permanent damage is inflicted.
Drugs to treat type II diabetes are frequently advertised. Too bad TV commercials don’t promote comprehensive blood tests to identify diabetic risk factors before they cripple or kill.
The tragedy for most victims of degenerative illness is that their disease was preventable with early-diagnosis.
This editorial will review recent findings indicating that many Americans needlessly suffer diabetic complications. I will also describe an easy way to detect diabetes risk at an earlier stage, before significant damage is done.
Most readers of this magazine take steps to reduce their risk of diabetes, such as supplementing with vitamin D.
In people with higher vitamin D blood levels (>50 ng/mL), transition from prediabetes to type II diabetes may be reduced as much as 80%.15
But as I wrote on the previous page, we at Life Extension® advocate for the term “ prediabetes” to be abolished. Our rationale is that the risk of diabetic complications is substantially increased even in those with high-normal blood glucose levels.
Nerve Damage Starts Early
Small, capillary-like blood vessels that are embedded in nerve bundles feed the nerves throughout our bodies, including small and large nerves in our feet.
An elevation of glycemic markers means that excessive blood sugar and glycation are inflicting damage to small nerve fibers by cutting off blood circulation. This is the reason why crippling neuropathic pain is often the first sign of type II diabetes. This nerve damage may have begun decades before.
A 2018 study looked at hemoglobin A1c levels in groups of people with and without diabetes.16
Hemoglobin A1c is a marker of long-term sugar control, whereas fasting glucose only tells us what blood sugar levels are, at a single point in time
This study found subclinical, small nerve-fiber impairments in non-diabetics whose hemoglobin A1c levels were only 5.5% to 6%, whereas those with HbA1c of less than 5.5% did not have these changes.16
This study corroborates what we’ve argued for decades — that sugar-related pathologies begin long before full-blown type II diabetes is diagnosed. The authors of this study concluded:
“These findings underscore the importance of early treatment at the prediabetes and early diabetes stages to prevent nerve fiber decline that is likely irreversible.”16
Most of you have your hemoglobin A1c tested each year. This 2018 study and others validate the importance of targeting HbA1c below 5.5%.
Keep Your Heart From “Shrinking”
To evaluate the effect of abnormal blood sugar levels on the heart muscle, MRI scans were performed on the hearts of diabetics and prediabetics and compared to a control group of normal-glycemic subjects. None of the study subjects had a history of cardiovascular disease.17
There was a stepwise decrease in right ventricular (heart) volume in men with prediabetes (-20.4) and diabetes (-25.6) in comparison with non-diabetic controls.17
This study shows that atrophy (shrinkage) of the heart muscle occurs in both prediabetes and frank diabetes,17 which is why we want the term “prediabetes” to be abolished.
The authors of this 2018 study that looked at the heart via MRI imaging concluded:
“This study points towards early subclinical changes in right ventricular volumes in men with diabetes and prediabetes.”17
Higher Blood Sugar Increases Atrial Fibrillation Risk
In atrial fibrillation, the heart’s upper chambers beat irregularly (quiver) instead of beating normally.18
Quivering of the heart’s upper chambers increases the risk of a clot forming. When these clots break off and enter the bloodstream, they readily lodge in arteries in the brain causing an ischemic stroke.18
Atrial fibrillation causes about 15% to 25% of strokes. The danger of these clots is so high that atrial fibrillation patients are usually placed on anticoagulant drugs (warfarin or Pradaxa®).19
These drugs carry the side effect of risk of internal bleeding.19 Yet the incidence of abnormal blood clot formation is so high in atrial fibrillation that the risk-to-reward ratio often favors use of these anti-coagulant drugs.
Atrial fibrillation is the most prevalent cardiac rhythm disorder in the elderly.20 A meta-analysis of 32 studies found that prediabetics have a 20% increased risk of atrial fibrillation while diabetics have a 28% increased risk.21
Stroke was long ago shown to be a diabetic complication. One pathological factor is damage inflicted on the brain’s arteries by elevated blood sugar.22
This new data reveals another reason why diabetics suffer more strokes. They have higher incidences of atrial fibrillation. This analysis also reveals that atrial fibrillation risk in prediabetics is not that much lower than in full-blown diabetics.22
Impaired Cardiac Fitness
Not all overweight people are diabetic.
A group of researchers examined relationships between glycemic control (as measured by hemoglobin A1c) and cardiovascular fitness in overweight/obese subjects with and without type II diabetes.23
A statistically significant relationship was observed between lower hemoglobin A1c and better cardiovascular fitness.23
The authors of this published study commented that even a mild worsening of glycemic control can adversely influence cardiovascular health measures.23
Recognizing “Prediabetic” Risks
About 86 million people in the United States fit the clinical definition for prediabetes.6 This represents about 27% of the entire population of the United States.
Prevalence of prediabetes increased each year between 2011 and 2014, which contributed to the nearly 2 million new diagnoses of type II diabetes made each year.6
A detailed analysis published in 2018 found that type II diabetics had higher adjusted odds of suffering cardiovascular and kidney diseases compared to prediabetics.6
Prediabetics, on the other hand had more of the following disorders compared to diagnosed type II diabetics:6
- Depressive disorder
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
One reason prediabetics have higher rates of the above diseases is that most type II diabetics are treated with a drug (metformin) that increases cellular AMPK activity.
Activating AMPK has been shown to help protect against a host of degenerative diseases.24-26
Prediabetes and Hypertension
High blood pressure and high blood sugar severely impact the heart and kidneys.
A study published in 2018 looked at hypertensive patients with and without prediabetes. The following “cardiovascular events” were evaluated:10
- Cardiovascular death
- Heart failure
- Myocardial infarction
The incidences of these cardiovascular events were 61% higher in the prediabetic group compared to those with normal blood glucose levels.10
This study also found a correlation between kidney impairment and increased cardiovascular events. This finding corroborates similar conclusions from previous studies.10
Hemoglobin A1c Blood Level and Stroke Risk
A systematic review of 29 prior studies assessed the association between rising hemoglobin A1c and first stroke risk.22
In this review, the risk of ischemic strokes—the most common type—increased with each 1% increase in HbA1c. In diabetics the risk of ischemic stroke increased 24% with each 1% increase in HbA1c. But in those without diabetes, stroke risk increased a whopping 49% for each 1% increase in HbA1c.22
You may wonder why stroke risk is higher in non-diabetics. My opinion is that it’s because diabetics usually receive preventive treatment for stroke risk factors (such as elevated blood pressure and lipids), adhere to healthier diets, and are prescribed AMPK activator drugs like metformin.
Non-diabetics may not take their elevated glycemic markers seriously.
This study showed that a small increase in HbA1c blood levels is associated with increased first-ever ischemic or hemorrhagic stroke risk, whether or not one is diagnosed with diabetes. This led the authors of this 2018 analysis to conclude:
“These findings suggest that more intensive HbA1c glycemic control targets may be required for optimal ischemic stroke prevention.”22
Optimal HbA1c is under 5.5%. When HbA1c levels rise to 6.5%, there is a substantially greater risk of stroke. This observational analysis suggests non-diabetics (in addition to diabetics) benefit from better glycemic control.22
Tragedy of Delayed Prevention
Each day, 5,000 Americans perish from a degenerative illness.33 Far more suffer from a chronic disease that impairs their quality of life.
The majority of these disabilities and deaths are preventable with annual comprehensive blood tests.
The absurdity is that many Americans wait for a diabetic complication to manifest (such as neuropathy, stroke, or kidney failure) before paying attention to their glycemic risk markers.
Several times a week, I review new data confirming that even slightly elevated blood glucose or hemoglobin A1c predisposes us to increased risks faced by diabetics.
The good news is that these risk factors can be lowered using a variety of proven interventions.
Annual Blood Test Super Sale
With normal aging, our cellular insulin sensitivity decreases.34,35 The result is higher blood sugar that can be measured with readily available blood tests.
Comprehensive blood tests uncover early markers of disease that are reversible if detected in time.
Yet the inconvenience of doctors’ appointments (and increasing cost) causes many people to delay having their blood tested.
Life Extension® broke down these barriers decades ago by offering comprehensive blood testing direct to our supporters.
Once a year we discount prices to enable our readers to have comprehensive testing done for only $199. These same tests at commercial labs cost far more.
With thousands of blood-drawing stations available across most of the United States, either on a walk-in basis or by appointment, there is no need to delay.
These tests provide evaluations for cardiovascular and cancer risk factors. This enables individuals to change their unhealthy behavior patterns before serious illness manifests.
Turn this page to see the descriptions of the many tests that are included in our Male and Female Blood Test Panels. These panels include hemoglobin A1c, glucose, and measures of kidney function.
This year we’ve added fasting insulin to these popular panels to better enable our readers to achieve optimal glycemic control. See the box on the next page to learn why it is so important to know your fasting insulin level when seeking to protect against hidden pathologies caused by excessive blood sugar.
To order the Male or Female Panel at the year’s lowest prices, call 1-800-208-3444 or log on to LifeExtension.com/blood
For longer life,
- Available at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-statistics/kidney-disease. Accessed February 25, 2019.
- Available at: https://www.kidney.org/news/newsroom/factsheets/End-Stage-Renal-Disease-in-the-US. Accessed February 25, 2019.
- Available at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/-/media/Files/Kidney-Disease/KU_Diseases_Stats_508.pdf. Accessed February 25, 2019.
- Available at: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/304528.php. Accessed February 25, 2019.
- Melsom T, Schei J, Stefansson VT, et al. Prediabetes and Risk of Glomerular Hyperfiltration and Albuminuria in the General Nondiabetic Population: A Prospective Cohort Study. Am J Kidney Dis. 2016 Jun;67(6):841-50.
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- Plantinga LC, Crews DC, Coresh J, et al. Prevalence of chronic kidney disease in US adults with undiagnosed diabetes or prediabetes. Clin J Am Soc Nephrol. 2010 Apr;5(4):673-82.
- Tabak AG, Herder C, Rathmann W, et al. Prediabetes: a high-risk state for diabetes development. Lancet. 2012 Jun 16;379(9833):2279-90.
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- Garcia-Carretero R, Vigil-Medina L, Mora-Jimenez I, et al. Cardiovascular risk assessment in prediabetic patients in a hypertensive population: The role of cystatin C. Diabetes Metab Syndr. 2018 Sep;12(5):625-9.
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- Xu WG, Qian YF, Wu J. The effect of prediabetes on hepatocellular carcinoma risk: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Minerva Med. 2017 Apr;108(2):185-90.
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- Park SK, Garland CF, Gorham ED, et al. Plasma 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentration and risk of type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetes: 12-year cohort study. PLoS One. 2018;13(4):e0193070.
- Abraham A, Barnett C, Katzberg HD, et al. Nerve function varies with hemoglobin A1c in controls and type 2 diabetes. J Diabetes Complications. 2018 Apr;32(4):424-8.
- Patscheider H, Lorbeer R, Auweter S, et al. Subclinical changes in MRI-determined right ventricular volumes and function in subjects with prediabetes and diabetes. Eur Radiol. 2018 Jul;28(7):3105-13.
- January CT, Wann LS, Alpert JS, et al. 2014 AHA/ACC/HRS guideline for the management of patients with atrial fibrillation: a report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines and the Heart Rhythm Society. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2014 Dec 2;64(21):e1-76.
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- Curtis AB, Karki R, Hattoum A, et al. Arrhythmias in Patients >/=80 Years of Age: Pathophysiology, Management, and Outcomes. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2018 May 8;71(18):2041-57.
- Aune D, Feng T, Schlesinger S, et al. Diabetes mellitus, blood glucose and the risk of atrial fibrillation: A systematic review and meta-analysis of cohort studies. J Diabetes Complications. 2018 May;32(5):501-11.
- Mitsios JP, Ekinci EI, Mitsios GP, et al. Relationship Between Glycated Hemoglobin and Stroke Risk: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. J Am Heart Assoc. 2018 May 17;7(11).
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