WHEN IT ALL COMES HOME TO ROOST
We have all heard or know of that 95-year-old who is sharp as a tack and credits their longevity to their daily cigar and fast food. We also know that guy that ran 10 miles every day, ate organic and dropped down dead before he hit 50. Video time lapse of aging gracefully
It’s easy to sit back and place your health in the hands of fate. But when did irresponsibility ever serve any of us well? I don’t feel that this handing off of personal responsibility is a true reflection of a person’s character. We were not taught anything about nutrition, health or disease at school, and at a young age it was probably the last thing on our mind. When our mortality catches up with us, it can be overwhelming, like trying to learn a new language which would have been much easier if we had been introduced to it when we were young. Surrounded by conflicting ideas, marketing madness and constantly emerging new information, it is understandable that people throw their hands in the air and give up. Being the prideful creatures we are, it feels better to act like we don’t care than to care but not know what to do.
But we do care. That high blood pressure result did alarm us, the number on the scale did ruin our day… We try, we try really hard and yet the scale keeps heading north and the doctor is still frowning at our test results.
What does “old” mean to you? At the turn of the Century, it meant your 40’s. Today you might think mid-eighties. For the more informed it might mean cellular health and telomere length. I am not putting a number on ‘old’. I know plenty of old people in their thirties and I know plenty of young people in their seventies.
Being old most often refers to the time when our health takes on a definite change. So let us use that reference point and discuss what can happen over time.
In the earlier chapters, we talked about how the over-release of the hormone insulin will make us fat. When we are younger, that’s all we cared about, not getting fat. As we get older, the toll of insulin takes on another form. Before we get to that, let’s set the scene by going back. Way back …
Before birth, we feed off our mother’s blood. If that pregnant lady is eating a lot of sugar and/or a very high carbohydrate diet, that shows up in her blood as blood glucose/blood sugar. High blood sugar triggers that over-release of insulin from the pancreas. The baby, through its mother’s blood, is also being exposed to a high level of blood sugar, so they develop more insulin-secreting cells.
A baby exposed to high levels of sugar may develop the ability to produce more insulin before it takes its first breath!
Insulin is known to be the main fat storage hormone but insulin also acts as a growth factor. Bodybuilders have known how to manipulate this hormone to their advantage for a long time. When they want to gain muscle they “bulk up” (an old-school term which basically means creating a huge insulin response).
Insulin, protein, testosterone and growth hormone are our growth factors. The conundrum is how to build muscle and lose fat at the same time. Insulin will halt fat llossbut it will help build lean tissue. You won’t gain much muscle on a diet and knowing this bodybuilder will cycle between eating to gain muscle and eating to lose fa.t
That unborn baby does the pretty much the same thing. Momma has a lot of sugar is her blood and the baby makes more insulin to deal with it. Insulin works as a growth factor and the baby gets bigger. Diabetic mothers tend to have large babies.
The baby is born, hopefully, healthy and happy and also with an increased ability to produce insulin.
Before you go and chastise your mother for the state of your waistline we should recognize that, just because we have the ability or the predisposition for something, it does not mean it is our destiny.
We all have the diabetic gene but what matters is if we trigger that gene. Epigenetics is a more recent conversation (although Darwin started the discussion in the 19th century) about gene expression. To fall prey to a genetic trait you have to pull the trigger.
If you asked my grandfather he might have told you that high blood pressure “runs” in our family. Two generations later and I will tell you bad English food runs in our family, and it is not our genetic fate.
Keeping it simple. Yes, a baby exposed to a high level of blood sugar before birth may adapt in a way that works against them later in life, but only if the life they choose pulls that trigger.
Control your sugar and carbohydrate intake, keep moving every day, and you don’t have to get trigger happy later in life.
Insulin travels in the blood and attaches to the insulin receptors on cells. When those receptors are responsive, insulin can do its job and transport nutrients into cells (muscle, fat and liver).
Constantly eating sugar/carbohydrates means a constant release of insulin and the cells can become “resistant” to the persistent message of the blood clearing hormone.
A couple buys a house by a railway track. They hadn’t really thought it through and when they first move in they can’t get a night’s sleep because of the roar of the train every other hour. It drives them crazy. Over time they get used to the disturbance, visitor comments on the noise, perplexed, the couple looks at each other, “What train?”
Insulin is like that train. The muscle and fat cells hear it screaming all the time because their host is making some pretty crazy food choices. Insulin keeps on screaming until eventually, the muscle cells say, “What insulin?”
Insulin resistance is when the cells stop responding to insulin. Between muscle and fat, it is always the muscle cell that becomes resistant first. The muscle cell shuts down and the fat cells have to bear the burden. and people pile on the pounds.
If we keep going past this point, the fat cells can also become resistant, and now blood sugar has nowhere to go. Neither fat nor muscle will house it, and sugar and insulin build to dangerous levels in the blood. If nutrients can no longer enter cells, the cells start to starve, and this triggers fatigue, cravings, hunger – an almighty mess.
This dreadful scenario can happen at any age if you eat badly enough, but, as we get older muscle does become resistant. Insulin is portrayed as the devil, but insulin is also responsible for keeping muscle intact. The presence of insulin stops muscle or fat from being broken down. As we age the muscle cells become resistant, nutrients don’t get to the cell, insulin cant protect it and muscle starts to break down. Fat cells are not resistant so as we start to lose muscle we can gain fat. When cells don’t get nourished we become tired, less driven and we begin to feel OLD
Imagine the process. We’re getting older – insulin resistance kicks in, with the muscle cells being affected first. Time moves on and now the liver receptors start to become resistant. Now comes hyperinsulinism; high levels of insulin in the body, resulting in inflammation. And this feeds in to a whole barrage of complaints. Next, your blood pressure goes up, triglycerides (fat in the blood) increase, HDL (high-density lipoproteins – the good lipid transporters) decline and it becomes more of a challenge to regulate blood sugar.
In our later years, the pancreas starts to get tired. Your eating habits might have forced it to work pretty dang hard all those years. It’s worn out and can’t release insulin the way it used to. Blood glucose remains high, and we enter the era of Type 2 Diabetes.
Type 2 Diabetes used to be called “Adult Onset Diabetes” because that’s when it was expected to happen – as older adults.
Signs of Insulin Resistance
1. Physical Fatigue
2. Mood swings
3. Mental fatigue
4. Not able to hold a thought, brain fog
5. Afternoon naps
6. Weight gain
7. Sugar cravings and overeating
8. Digestive issues, IBS, and leaky gut
9. Gas, bloating
Sounds pretty familiar to a lot of us…
Interestingly, insulin resistance is also linked to leptin resistance. Leptin is that hormone that tells us how much we need to eat. If we become leptin resistant we’re hungry all the time. This is hard to ignore and the afflicted have a ferocious appetite.
Those afternoon naps, that forgotten thought, those bathroom issues are cast aside as the unavoidable pitfalls of getting older. But as insulin resistance takes hold, other more severe symptoms emerge.
1. Elevated Triglycerides
2. High LDL cholesterol
3. High blood pressure
4. Autoimmune disorders
5. Liver disease
Don’t be sucked into the belief that thin is healthy. Although weight gain is very common, insulin resistance affects the slight of body too. Indeed, those of slender frame may get harder hit just because their growing insulin resistance is less apparent.
Metabolic Syndrome is the bringing together of a few powerhouses. Obesity, diabetes, and hypertension (high blood pressure, where the blood creates too much pressure against the walls of our arteries). All three of these conditions are linked to insulin resistance. Cancer and Alzheimers, conditions that terrify us, are also linked to insulin resistance.
Chronic diseases are classed as those that
1. Do not get better with time.
2. Have environmental triggers.
3. Have multiple symptoms.
Metabolic syndrome is another step towards heart disease and one-quarter of the adults in the United States have heart disease.
Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) is the main form of heart disease. Blood vessels of the heart become damaged, and this can result in a heart attack.
There is no cure because the vessels remain damaged. Even after a bypass, which gets more blood and oxygen to the heart, you still have those buggered vessels. And how did they get buggered?
Pills, booze and rock, and roll.
Lifestyle choices that cause inflammation.
Diabetes caused by too much blood sugar and too little exercise; excess sugar ends up in the liver and the liver converts it into fat (triglycerides). Triglycerides travel in the blood on small dense lipoproteins (Mostly VLDL). As a result, your cholesterol markers are on the up.
Kidneys start to release sodium and sodium holds water in, the blood, This sends us right back to high blood pressure and damage to arterial walls.
For a great many years we blamed cholesterol for all our woes. However high triglycerides are more common than high cholesterol in people with heart disease. Over half of the people with heart disease do not have high cholesterol (and we have known this since the 1960s!).
High triglycerides come from too much sugar, too many carbohydrates – not from cholesterol
In 1967 there was a study of 286 patients. Out of this sample, 246 were thought to have a genetic link to heart disease. They were put on a diet with no sugar and only 500-600 calories per day coming from carbohydrates; 90% of them saw a reduction in both their triglycerides and their cholesterol.
I am not a doctor or a medical professional of any kind, my intention is to point out that as we have continued to learn more about disease and aging, it has become apparent that we may have got a few things backward. Blame has zero value and I doubt anyone meant to lead us astray but it is also a mistake to hold on to pieces of dubious information as if they were carved in stone by Moses himself.
It is sufficient to say that, at this moment in time, it would be accurate to state that excess carbohydrate, and sugar-dense products, coupled with inactivity and stress appear to be a central dot from which many other ugly dots are joined.
Eating natural foods and doing manual labor used not to be a choice. We scrubbed floors, walked to school, my gran washed clothes by hand and my dad did his own garden. We are less, cooked more and spent more time with loved ones.
Today we have the option to eat with convenience and move only by choice. This is where we are at, and discipline is rewarded later whereas laziness is rewarded now.
What we put in our face, who we surround ourselves with and what we do with our feet has an enormous impact on how gracefully we age.