Diabesity, Heart Disease, and Stroke
It seems like everybody has been focusing so much on how to defeat diabesity, the condition where type 2 diabetes and obesity exist simultaneously, that they ignore the reason they want to defeat it. Namely, diabesity can lead to many serious health complications, such as heart disease, stroke, and kidney failure.
Experts and health officials wouldn’t fear the diabesity epidemic so much if it weren’t for such dire health conditions. After all, the conditions associated with type 2 diabetes and obesity range from bothersome to serious to deadly. Let’s review some of these conditions:
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Heart disease, stroke, and other health complications of diabesity
Since diabesity is the combination of type 2 diabetes and obesity, we’ll list the health complications for these two conditions separately.
Health risks of obesity
The health risks of being overweight or obese include:
- High blood pressure
- Abnormal cholesterol/triglyceride levels
- Type 2 diabetes
- Sleep apnea
- Heart disease
- Gallbladder disease
- Physical disability
- Some cancers
Those who are obese are also at increased risk of all causes of death.
Health risks of type 2 diabetes
Some of the health risks of type 2 diabetes are the same as those of obesity, and include:
- High blood pressure
- Abnormal cholesterol/triglyceride levels
- Kidney disease/failure
- Heart disease
- Neuropathy (nerve disease)
- Retinopathy (An eye disease that can lead to blindness)
- Gum disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Skin problems
The link between type 2 diabetes and obesity, and how it can cause heart disease and stroke
It is an established fact that type 2 diabetes and obesity are interrelated. In fact, you’ll rarely find one without the other. The Centers for Disease Control states around 90% of those who are obese will develop type 2 diabetes. Meanwhile, statistics show the majority of diabetics — about 90% — are obese.
The interrelationship between type 2 diabetes and obesity is due to the effect, or rather, the dysfunction in the body’s usage of the hormone insulin. Further, an elevated setpoint is at the heart of both type 2 diabetes and obesity.
Though we don’t yet know why an elevated setpoint appears first as type 2 diabetes in some people and as obesity in others, we do know the mechanism behind it in both cases. Namely, a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes means insulin is building up in your bloodstream. This makes it almost impossible for your body to burn stored fat for fuel, making obesity almost a certainty. Similarly, a diagnosis of obesity means your brain, gut, hormones, or all three of them can’t do their job to regulate weight. This leads to insulin building up in your bloodstream, which leads to type 2 diabetes.
So if your brain, gut, and/or hormones are not healthy, your setpoint will rise and if nothing is done, you will be diagnosed with either obesity or type 2 diabetes. Then, if nothing is done after that diagnosis, the other diagnosis will follow, and you will have diabesity.
Elevated blood glucose levels in both type 2 diabetes and obesity damage blood vessels to the heart and brain, leading to heart disease and stroke, respectively. (Blood vessel damage caused by elevated blood glucose levels is a common reason for many of the health complications of diabesity).
Let’s talk about heart disease and stroke for a moment.
Though many of the health complications of diabesity are just as dangerous as heart disease and stroke, they are not statistically as deadly.
Heart disease is the number 1 killer of both men and women in the United States. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, diabetes is a major risk factor for heart disease. Diabetes can cause three types of heart disease: coronary heart disease, heart failure, and diabetic cardiomyopathy.
Coronary heart disease is a condition in which plaque builds up inside the coronary arteries, narrowing these arteries. This reduces blood flow to the heart. The plaque can also cause clots to form inside the coronary arteries that reduce or completely block blood flow to the heart muscle. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), coronary heart disease is the most common type of heart disease, killing more than 370,000 million people annually. Approximately 735,000 Americans have a heart attack every year. Most of them are first heart attacks, but an amazing number — 210,000 — happen to those who have already had a heart attack.
Heart failure is a condition in which the heart is too weak to pump an adequate amount of blood through the body.
Diabetic cardiomyopathy is a condition in which the structure and function of the heart have been damaged.
Stroke, a condition in which blood flow to the brain is blocked, is the fifth leading killer of people in the U.S., but it is the leading cause of long-term disability. (Source: Centers for Disease Control) Approximately 140,000 Americans die from stroke every year. That is 1 in every 20 deaths.
Diabetes significantly increases the risk of stroke. Though the underlying mechanism through which diabetes increases stroke risk is in debate, most experts believe it is because excess glucose in the blood causes increased fatty deposits on the inside of blood vessel walls. The fatty deposits can block blood vessels in the brain or neck, cutting off blood flow to the brain.
To defeat heart disease and stroke, then, defeating diabesity is a must. The only way to do that is to lower your setpoint. Before discussing how to lower your setpoint, we need to discuss the factors that elevate it.
Factors that elevate setpoint
Diabesity is an unnecessary evil caused by an elevated body weight setpoint and blood sugar setpoint. These elevated setpoints are caused by 3 things:
- Neurological inflammation affects your brain
- Digestive dysbiosis affects your gut
- Hormonal dysregulation affects your hormones
Let’s take them one by one.
When you feel hungry, you probably think about your stomach. But did you know the feeling of hunger is all in your head? The link between your head and your stomach is the hypothalamus, an almond-sized structure located deep within your brain that serves a very vital function: the regulation and control of your metabolism. If the hypothalamus becomes “inflamed,” your setpoint goes up, and you can have trouble staying at your ideal weight.
A little background: Inflammation is not necessarily a bad thing. It goes on throughout your body to various degrees and is essentially a vital part of the healing process. Inflammation only turns into a problem if it continues for too long and becomes chronic. This can damage your organs and thus underlies many serious health problems: heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, dementia, and, yes, obesity.
But back to the hypothalamus: Medical researchers have discovered that an inflamed hypothalamus is one of the causes of obesity and this evidence has been building for some time. For example, a team of researchers from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health found that eating too many calories from sugary, high-fat inSANE foods definitely inflames the hypothalamus. This “neuroinflammation” then hijacks the normal operation of two key hormones, leptin, and insulin. In a healthy body, these hormones act as messengers to regulate appetite and eating. But when they are disrupted, they can’t effectively carry out their jobs. This leads to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
Your body is composed of an estimated 100 trillion cells, but only about 10% of them are human. And most of them live in your gut! Bacteria residing in your gut and digestive tract exert a major influence on your setpoint and therefore on your vulnerability to diabesity.
These bacteria are responsible for a variety of tasks. For instance, they help extract calories from the food you eat. They also store these calories for later use as body fat. And some of these bacteria have a huge impact on neurological inflammation and whether or not you develop Diabesity.
If you’ve had trouble managing diabesity — and your weight — you may have a hormonal clog keeping your setpoint elevated. When you are hormonally clogged, your brain cannot correctly receive signals from your hormones that normally enable you to burn fat automatically.
An easy way to understand how this hormonal clog elevates your setpoint is to think about your body as functioning like a sink. When a sink is working properly, more water poured in means more water drains out. Sure, the water level may rise temporarily, but the sink will automatically take care of it. The sink is balancing water in and water out at a low level. Think of a working sink as having a low setpoint.
A hormonally healthy body works similarly, doing its best to automatically prevent excess body fat from accumulating. A healthy body, like a “healthy” sink, responds to more in with more out, and to less in with less out.
What causes hormonal clogs?
When water builds up in sinks and fat builds up in bodies, it’s because they have become clogged. The key question then is: what causes clogs? Well…sinks and bodies get clogged and break down when the wrong things are put in them. Once a clog happens, any amount of water in will cause the water level to rise and stay high. Now you have a sink with an elevated setpoint.
Think of your body in the same way. When you put poor quality foods into it, your body becomes hormonally clogged, causing it to automatically balance you out at an elevated level of body fat (overweight and obesity) and an elevated level of blood sugar (type 2 diabetes). Like a backed-up sink with stagnant water sitting in it, your body ends up carrying a lot of stagnant fat and blood sugar around. You have or are on your way to having, Diabesity, heart disease, stroke, and many other health conditions.
The hormonal clog elevates your setpoint and triggers a constant increase in appetite and cravings coupled with a decrease in energy and calorie burn.
Defeating diabesity, heart disease, and stroke with Diet
One of the biggest causes of an elevated setpoint is a poor-quality diet. Research shows routinely enjoying what has become the “Standard American Diet” of heavily processed foods, sugar, and starchy carbs cause neurological inflammation, digestive dysbiosis, and hormonal dysregulation.
To defeat diabesity, therefore, it is important that you avoid the above foods as much as possible. But as you’ve undoubtedly discovered, telling yourself NOT to do something is almost like ordering yourself to do it! That’s because your brain focuses on what you tell it not to do.
But you can use this to your advantage. Instead of telling yourself what not to eat, tell yourself what to eat more of! For instance, tell yourself you CAN eat more non-starchy vegetables, nutrient-dense protein, and whole-food fats. You’ll be amazed how you’ll start noticing these foods wherever you go, totally ignoring the inSANE foods you used to eat with relish.
Just decide to be so full of SANE foods, you’ll be too full for inSANE ones. Here are food groups that remove hormonal clogs, trigger fat-burning hormones, and eliminate cravings for sugar and starchy carbs.
10+ servings per day
Non-starchy vegetables fill you up quickly and keep you full for hours. Fill half your plate with non-starchy veggies at each main meal, or blend them into a yummy, setpoint-lowering green smoothie.
3-5 servings per day
Nutrient-dense protein triggers short-and long-term satiety hormones, meaning it fills you up fast and keeps you full for a long time. It also builds lean muscle mass, which speeds up metabolism.
3-6 servings per day
Whole-food fats are filling, and if you eat them instead of sugar and starchy carbs, your body will start burning fat for fuel!
0-3 serving per day
Feel free to enjoy up to 3 servings of low-fructose fruits per day, but you don’t have to include any in your diet. Non-starchy veggies do everything these fruits can do with about 10 times less sugar!
Next step: End diabesity, heart disease, and stroke with SANE
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