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The Importance of Blood Sugar Level

Posted Jun 13 2008 12:00pm


Think this is a post about diabetes? Nope. (Although you wouldn’t be alone in that assumption…) In this country, if you don’t have diabetes, you’re supposedly in the clear. Not so fast, we say!

Research from New Zealand offers “the largest study to date of [hemoglobin] A1C levels and subsequent mortality risk” in men and women without a diabetes diagnosis. And guess what? The higher subjects’ blood sugar, the greater their risk of mortality 4 years later. Score another point for the Primal Blueprint.

The researchers conducted follow-up with more than 47,000 people who had participated in a Hepatitis B screening a few years earlier. Subjects were non-diabetic at the time of initial screening. The average age of study participants was only 38. Between the time of initial screening and follow-up, 815 subjects died.

Brewer’s team found that the risk of premature death rose in tandem with blood sugar levels. The risk of death increased steadily from the A1C “reference category” (4.0% to less than 5.0%) to the highest A1C category (7.0% or higher). Strong associations were seen between elevated blood sugar and death from endocrine, nutritional, metabolic, and immunity disorders. Blood sugar was also strongly associated with death from diseases of the circulatory system. Weaker associations were observed between increasing blood sugar and deaths from cancer and other and unknown causes.

via Medline Plus

Just for reference, “healthy” individuals are expected to show AIC readings in the 4%-6%. (Different hospitals/physicians sometimes use variations of this range.) Although AIC levels aren’t generally used to “diagnose” diabetes, measurements above 7% cross a recommended threshold defined by the American Diabetes Association.

This study reminded us of earlier news we reported on a few weeks ago. The “Hunt study” showed that thyroid function in the less active part of the “normal” clinical reference range was associated with an increased risk for fatal coronary heart disease.

The connection? We can’t keep seeing health in a black and white paradigm of disease versus “good” health. Health, ultimately, is a continuum, and it’s important for medical care to help us assess our place on that spectrum rather than simply confirm or rule out particular conditions. Our current medical system and public mindset seem to do little in the way of active prevention. Too many of us wait until we’re dealing with dramatic symptoms and medical diagnoses.

The studies encourage us to be more cautious in our personal health analysis and more rigorous in our routines. Not having a condition simply isn’t enough. The gradations that lead up to those looming diagnoses are pretty menacing, as it turns out. In this case, officially “normal” blood sugar levels (AIC levels) are associated with higher risks of death due to endocrine, nutritional, metabolic, and immunity disorders. And that doesn’t even include subjects who are now suffering from these disorders but are still alive! Isn’t it time for a new standard, a new vision of health assessment?

However, there’s a definite positive, encouraging message in this study as well. And it’s one we try to spout as often as we can. Your daily, continuous, seemingly thankless efforts absolutely matter.

amyliagrace Flickr Photo (CC)

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