Metabolic syndrome describes a variety of chronic health conditions, each of which can increase your risks of heart disease, diabetes, and death. The metabolic conditions most strongly related to age are often referred to as insulin resistance syndrome. In most of them, the body’s resistance to insulin leads to the excessive production of the hormone.
This is not only a dominant factor in diabetes development, but it can also cause extensive oxidative cellular stress and damage. Even if you don’t have diabetes, it pays to understand how your body uses insulin and its many roles in your well-being — especially the role increased insulin sensitivity plays in aging and age-related health conditions.
It’s All About Quantity
Insulin’s most important role is to regulate your blood sugar. Your pancreas secretes insulin whenever you consume carbohydrates or sugar. Its purpose is to control your body’s absorption of those elements and to send your body signals to burn the sugar for energy.
When the body is inundated with sugar, it’s constantly producing insulin in response. In time, you’ll grow more resistant to it, and your body will stop responding to its cues to burn sugar. Unfortunately, excess sugar in the bloodstream and the resulting cellular damage and metabolic problems are all too common.
It doesn’t take long before you start suffering the damage, either. Conversely, being insulin sensitive means that your body needs to secrete only a minimal amount of insulin to control your blood sugar. This is far healthier and more ideal for your long-term health, as many people know. But do you know why?
Sensitive to Insulin and Aging
Too much insulin is known to damage healthy cell structure and rapidly speed up the signs of aging. In 2005, a Brown University study found a direct correlation between decreased insulin action in fruit flies and their prolonged life spans. Because they have more than 13,601 genes that are similar to humans, researchers say the results are promising for human longevity.
In addition to potentially increasing your life span, insulin sensitivity can also keep you feeling, looking, and even thinking younger for longer. A 2017 study published by the National Institutes of Health stated that “insulin sensitivity and proper insulin signaling may lead to preserved cognition that results in well-being of elderly people.”
What makes insulin sensitivity unique to other anti-aging techniques is that it’s something you can control entirely on your own by focusing on your body’s natural rhythms. Insulin isn’t man-made, and sensitivity to it isn’t an overnight gimmick. In fact, with a healthy diet and a few lifestyle changes such as these, you can dramatically increase your insulin sensitivity and ability to fight off age-related cellular damage:
1. Stay away from refined sugars.
Your body creates insulin in response to any carbs or sugars you consume, but the complex carbs and refined sugars found in many processed foods are especially hazardous. In a 2016 European Journal of Nutrition study, researchers found that a steady intake of natural (or free) sugars did not have a detrimental impact on participants’ health. However, a steady intake of refined sugars had notably negative effects on subjects’ metabolisms and risks of chronic diseases.
2. Eat more fats and fiber but fewer carbs.
Carbs fuel your body’s cells, but you don’t necessarily need them to remain healthy. Because they can contribute strongly to insulin resistance, you might benefit from limiting them in your diet or cutting them out completely. For instance, you can teach your body to burn fat instead of carbs by following a high-fat, moderate-fiber, and low-carb diet. This prevents your blood sugar from spiking because you’re consuming far fewer sugars and carbs.
3. Make exercise and good sleep mandatory.
Exercising and sleeping well consistently are well-known, highly important factors in your overall well-being. They’re also vital to regulating your blood sugar and maintaining a healthy sensitivity to insulin. For example, when your muscles contract during a workout, they absorb glucose from your bloodstream, which reduces your insulin production. When you sleep, your body can also more effectively regulate your body’s production and use of insulin.
4. Reduce stress as much as possible.
Stress is one of the most well-known factors in managing your blood sugar and insulin production. Every time you’re stressed, your brain releases cortisol and adrenaline — both of which boost your blood sugar levels. The longer you’re stressed, the higher your blood sugar and insulin resistance. Try meditating, taking up a hobby, doing yoga, scheduling massages every week, or anything else that allows you to safely and regularly relieve stress.
Slowing down the effects of aging on your body isn’t a fad or a one-time solution. It takes understanding what causes your cells and body to age quickly, such as excessive amounts of insulin, and taking steps to mitigate it, such as increasing your insulin sensitivity. You’ll not only slow down aging, but you’ll also enjoy a much healthier and happier life in the process.