The common health condition men don't know about—until they have a heart attack

Coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death in men and nearly 20-25 percent of men between age 60 and 79 have it. What many of these men don’t realize is that insulin resistance—an often misdiagnosed, under-recognized syndrome—is the leading cause of pre-diabetes, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. When a person has insulin resistance, the cells do not respond to insulin so the body has to make greater and greater amounts of it to help glucose enter the cells. The reality, however, is that men can have insulin resistance 20 years before they’re even diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Eighty-six million people have insulin resistance and more than 70 percent of those who have heart attacks also have insulin resistance. Diabetes is responsible for 12 percent of deaths, which more than previously thought. Men with insulin resistance may not have a history of diabetes, but they often have a history of heart disease. Insulin resistance often goes undiagnosed because some of the characteristics of pre-diabetes are often overlooked, such as an elevated C-reactive protein level (CRP) and other inflammatory biomarkers. In fact, 66 percent of patients who were treated in the emergency room for a heart attack were found to have either diabetes or abnormal glucose levels, according to a study in the journal Diabetes Care. Insulin resistance typically starts to show up in middle age. Although it’s mostly genetic, there are risk factors: • High triglycerides and low HDL (good) cholesterol levels • A waistline over 40 inches • High blood pressure: 120/70 or greater • A high fasting blood sugar • Vascular inflammation, which is diagnosed through a coronary calcium scan or carotid intima media thickness (CIMT) test, as well as inflammatory biomarkers Insulin resistance is associated with an unhealthy diet, lack of physical activity, smoking, stress, lack of sleep and exposure to heavy metals and toxins, and metabolic syndrome, which affects 35-40 percent of adults. Metabolic syndrome is characterized by fat around the waistline, visceral fat around the internal organs and a loss of muscle mass. Although being overweight increases a man’s risk for insulin resistance, 50 percent of people who have it don’t have a weight problem. A healthy, low-sugar diet, active lifestyle, regular exercise, stress reduction and healthy sleep habits can all help prevent insulin resistance.

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