Diabetes, pre-diabetes, and blood sugar issues like metabolic syndrome and hypoglycemia are all serious conditions that can have a severe effect on your quality of life – yet many people with these conditions are unaware that they have it in the first place.
What’s worse is that standard medical tests are failing to detect the root causes of blood sugar issues before they become full-blown conditions. Even if you go to your doctor for regular check ups, they might not detect that you’re at risk for developing a blood sugar issue until it’s too late.
For example, type 2 diabetes doesn’t develop over the course of days or a couple of weeks. It typically starts with a condition called insulin resistance, which can take years and years to show up on standard blood sugar tests, at which point you’d get diagnosed with pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes.
At Knew Health, our mission is to empower you to achieve optimal wellness – no matter how that looks for your unique situation – as well as be proactive with your health. We facilitate and provide discounted diagnostics lab tests that can help you catch irregularities, prevent health conditions, and detect and treat chronic conditions early.
That’s why we’ve made the fasting insulin test available to all Knew Health Members. Regularly doing a fasting insulin test is one way to protect your health.
What is the fasting insulin test?
When it comes to blood sugar issues, early detection is key. Detecting an issue early can help you avoid it becoming a full-blown chronic illness.
This is where the fasting insulin test comes in. The fasting insulin test – not to be confused with the fasting glucose test – is one of the most accurate tests available to detect a trend toward pre-diabetes. We call it the “pre-pre-diabetes test” because it measures your insulin levels, which typically become imbalanced long before glucose or HbA1C levels.
Most doctors screen patients for diabetes with the fasting glucose test. If that test comes back normal, they tell you you’re good to go. Unfortunately, it’s not always accurate at picking up a potential blood sugar issue: your body will often compensate for an issue by raising insulin levels to keep your blood glucose and HbA1c in check.
Even if the results of your blood glucose test are fine, you could still be in the early stages of developing a blood sugar issue. The fasting insulin test, however, will pick it up.
To be clear, blood glucose and HbA1C testing are valuable, but the fasting insulin test is ideal for predicting early signs of blood sugar trouble.
What is insulin resistance?
As we mentioned above, this test is one of the best ways to detect insulin resistance. But what exactly is insulin resistance?
Insulin is an important hormone that your body produces. It manages your blood sugar, as well as the metabolism of fat and protein. When you eat carbs, your blood sugar levels increase. Your pancreas detects this and produces insulin. Insulin then travels around your body “telling” your cells to pick up sugar from your blood and use it.
This is important because extremely high blood sugar can be toxic – in fact, it can be fatal.
Insulin resistance means that your cells become less sensitive to the effects of insulin. This requires the pancreas to produce more insulin, which drives up your insulin levels.
This condition has become surprisingly common. According to the Centers for Disease Control, up to 1 in 3 Americans have insulin resistance. Unfortunately, many people live with it unknowingly for years.
Insulin resistance can lead to blood sugar issues. And elevated blood sugar from diabetes — if unaddressed — can turn into metabolic syndrome, a major cause of cardiovascular disease.
Who should get the fasting insulin test?
Considering that one-third of Americans have insulin resistance, we highly recommend everyone have an annual fasting insulin test. However, it’s especially important to have a test done if you have the following symptoms of insulin resistance.
The good news is that all Knew Health Members have access to this test through our laboratory diagnostics partner.
What are the symptoms of insulin resistance?
The following are common symptoms of insulin resistance:
- Weight gain, especially belly fat
- Fatigue after eating
- Frequent dizziness
- Feeling weak or shaky
- Needing to eat frequently for energy
- Hormone imbalances, including PCOS and infertility in women
- Craving carbohydrate foods (such as pasta, bread, sugar)
As a precautionary measure, we recommend getting fasting insulin tests done even if you don’t have the above symptoms.
What do the results of my fasting insulin test mean?
What’s a normal result for the fasting insulin test?
This isn’t the right question to ask. Unfortunately, “normal” levels are not actually good, because so many people have insulin resistance: “normal” is just a statistic that captures the average American’s results. We aim for “optimal/functional levels,” not just “normal” or “high-normal” levels.
The optimum fasting insulin levels are less than 8 (or even better, around 4 or 5).This means you’re not creating a high insulin demand. Your body is producing insulin at optimal levels. Levels higher than 8 definitely indicate some degree of insulin resistance.
Here at Knew Health, we want to help you get your markers to optimal levels to help you prevent future issues from developing. Our goal is to help you uncover and address the dysfunctional dynamics now to help you to avoid illnesses later on.
What if my fasting insulin test results are bad?
If your results are less than optimal, don’t panic! The good thing is we’ve caught a trend toward pre-diabetes early on, which means there’s time to turn it around. By being proactive about your health, you’ve made an excellent choice for your future.
Fortunately, you can make changes now to prevent yourself from developing chronic blood sugar illnesses.
And make no mistake: plenty of research has shown insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, pre-diabetes, and even type 2 diabetes can be addressed through diet and lifestyle changes, as the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website states.
We encourage you to engage your primary healthcare provider, as well as health coaches, to evaluate your results and work together to help you create positive, healthy lifestyle changes.
Change your diet
One of the best things you can do is reduce your intake of carbohydrates and increase your intake of healthy fats. This is often called a low carb, high fat (LCHF) diet. Now, this doesn’t mean you have to eliminate carbs completely, but it might involve cutting down quite a bit.
You might be thinking, “I don’t eat sweet things often. I already have a healthy diet!” That may be so, but many of us take in high levels of carbohydrates without knowing it. For example, juices are often loaded with sugar, and certain fruits and vegetables can be high in carbs.
We recommend increasing your intake of healthy, stable fats. This can include extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, and fish oil (either from wild-caught salmon or omega-3 supplements). Nuts, avocados, fatty fish, dark chocolate, and whole eggs can also be high in fat.
Some tips for decreasing your carb intake:
- Keep high-fat snacks for when you need them, like yogurt or seed crackers and guacamole
- Have some low-carb go-to meals for when you’re not in the mood to cook, like scrambled egg and avocado, or a simple salad
- Try a pre-made food delivery service with a low-carb option
- Avoid fruit juices and high-carb smoothies
- Find low-carb candies made with dark chocolate or coconut
- Opt for full-fat dairy products
We recommend talking to a doctor before making a major dietary change.
You’ve probably heard that the more muscle you have, the more fat your body can burn. The same principle holds true for insulin. When you build muscle, it forces glucose out of the bloodstream and into cells, which naturally decreases your body’s insulin level.
Because of this, you’ll want to focus on exercises that are effective at building muscle.
This can include:
- High-intensity interval training (HIT) or “burst” training
- Weight lifting
HIIT is a kind of exercise where you work out intensely for 30 seconds to 1 minute, rest for 3 to 5 minutes, then do it again. If you’re pressed for time, interval training may be your best bet, as you can complete a super-effective workout in as little as 15 to 20 minutes.
In fact, a recent study showed that while both moderate and high-level intensity training had positive impacts on subjects’ blood sugar levels, the moderate-level group experienced only half the benefits of the high-intensity training group. You read that right: less exercise might yield more benefits!
Struggling to get moving? Find a way to make it fun. Purchase a fitness tracker, try an online challenge, or find an accountability buddy. You can talk to your Health Coach if you’re finding it difficult.
Sleep well, live well
In our busy lives, it’s often difficult to find enough time to rest. This is bad news for our health.
Research shows that sleep plays a massive role in your body’s ability to maintain balanced metabolism and insulin levels. If your insulin levels come back too high despite a healthy diet and exercise regime, a lack of deep, lengthy sleep could be the culprit.
For optimal health and blood sugar levels, we encourage members to aim for between 7 and a half and 9 hours of restful sleep per night. If you’re having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, that’s an issue you want to address right away.
Manage stress effectively
There are many different ways chronic stress can affect your blood sugar levels — from causing excessive sugar binging as a way to regulate your stress response to disrupting your sleep which leads to more blood sugar issues. It can also damage your immune system.
Bottom line: you need to burn off and manage stress every day to get your insulin levels down and maintain your health.
To reduce stress, you could try the following:
- A creative hobby. Creative hobbies help us process our emotions, relax, and express ourselves.
- You already know that exercise is good news for your insulin levels, but it can also help you burn off stress and anxiety.
- It sounds cliched, but research shows that meditation really works to reduce stress and anxiety.
- Journaling can help with both anxiety and depression.
- If you’re going through a difficult patch in your life – or even if you’re not – therapy can help you manage stress.
- Spending quality time with people you love is a great way to unwind.
No matter what you prefer, make it a point to practice at least one stress-relieving exercise every single day. These seemingly simple lifestyle choices are actually quite powerful in combating blood sugar issues and improving your general wellbeing.
Our Knew Health Coaches help our members create stress-busting routines and habits that work for them.
Recap: What you need to know about the fasting insulin test
- Blood sugar conditions take years to develop, and most standard tests fail to detect the signs of pre-pre-diabetes.
- The fasting insulin test can help you detect insulin resistance early.
- Optimal insulin levels are below 8.
- You want optimal levels, not just “normal” or “high-normal” levels.
- While genetics can play a role, lifestyle changes can often prevent insulin problems.
- Diet, exercise, sleep, and stress management all play key roles in keeping insulin levels balanced.
- Studies have shown that working with a Health Coach — like those at Knew — significantly helped people manage chronic conditions, like blood sugar issues.
Do you need help with a blood sugar issue? Or do you suspect you may be at risk for developing such a condition? If so, we encourage you to reach out to your healthcare provider.
Visit our Services page to learn more about how Knew Health can empower you to be more proactive with your health. We provide you with the resources you need to reach and maintain your optimal, individual wellness, and we have your back when unexpected accidents and illnesses happen.