Did you know that high levels of 1 essential hormone lead to 9 out of the top 10 causes of death in the US? The best way to reduce your risk of death is to optimize this hormone.

By the end of this post, you'll understand exactly what that hormone is. More importantly, you’ll also know the steps you can take to make sure your levels stay low. You CAN reduce your risks of death for the 9 diseases most likely to succeed . . . in killing you!

A gigantic health crisis has ravaged our health. It’s devastating not only the US, but the entire world.

Current Risk of Death = 100%

The mortality rate in the US is currently holding rock steady at 100%.

It's been that way for at least 245 years, never budging a single digit since this country was founded on July 4, 1776.

We're all gonna die!

In spite of that, we're not all gonna die the same way or at the same age.

10 Leading Causes of Death 2020

Let's take a look at the leading causes of death in the US for 2020, the most recent year for which we have statistics. The Journal of the American Medical Association laid out these leading causes in March, 2021.

Reduce risk for leading causes of death

About 2,712,630 Americans died in 2020.

Of those, about 398,483 died from all other causes, after the top 10. That's about 15%.

That means the 10 leading causes of death accounted for 85% of the deaths in the US in 2020.

Top 10 leading causes of death

Risk of Death from Accidents

To dig further into the statistics, we need to first take a look at number 4 on the list.

The 4th leading cause of death was accidents. That means car accidents, plane crashes, accidental drownings, accidents with guns, falls, etc. Accidents are self-explanatory.

Americans died in accidents in about 5% of all deaths.

So, add up the number of accidents with all other causes of death, the ones not in the top 10. Then we calculate about 20% of all deaths.

That leaves 80% of all deaths with causes in the top 10 list, taking out accidents.

Risk of Death from Metabolic Disease

ALL but one of the top 10 leading causes of death relate to metabolic disease. Accidents at number 4 are the only one that's not related to hormones.

Said another way, 9 out of the top 10 causes of death, 80%, are related to hormones and metabolic disease.

2,176,576 Dead = 5th Largest US City

In terms of numbers of people, that works out to 2,176,576 people who died from some form of metabolic disease in 2020.

We struggle to wrap our minds around that staggering number.

Gather together all the people who died last year from metabolic disease. That means you have the 5th largest city in the US, right behind New York, LA, Chicago, and Houston.

80% of all deaths are from metabolic disease

Metabolic Disease

“Metabolic disease” refers to any disease that involves the way your body uses energy.

Metabolism is breaking down glucose or fat or something else to keep your body's engine running. Some of the factors that contribute to metabolism include:

  • hormones
  • diet - the way your body takes in “macros”
    • glucose - in the form of sugar, starch, or carbohydrates
    • lipids or fats
    • protein
  • exercise and burning energy
  • body composition - whether you're underweight, just right, overweight, or obese

So, here's the list of the Top 10 Leading Causes of Death, in order:

Reduce your risk of death from the top 10 causes

Top 10 Causes of Death

First, heart disease kills more people than any other cause. About 23% of all deaths in 2020 were caused by heart disease, heart failure, heart attacks, and other manifestations of heart disease.

Cancer is #2 on the list of Top 10 Risks of Death at about 22%

Second, cancer of all kinds clocks in second. Breast cancer, colon cancer, pancreatic, leukemia, lymphoma, lung cancer, and a bunch more. All cancers combined to kill about 22% of the Americans who died in 2020.

We'kll go over the third leading cause of death a bit later. Here's a hint - it's also related to metabolic disease.

After accidents at number 4 . . .

Then comes Stroke at number 5. Stroke is followed by . . .

Chronic lung diseases like asthma, emphysema, COPD, at number 6.

Alzheimer's takes the 7th spot.

Then diabetes appears at number 8.

Number 9 is influenza and pneumonia.

Kidney disease rounds out the list at number 10.

Kidney disease leads to dialysis.

Similarities

Remarkably, several of these diseases show themselves to be similar to each other.

Clogged arteries impact both heart disease and stroke. Breathing problems make chronic respiratory disease and influenza or pneumonia both dangerous and scary.

Heart disease, Alzheimer's, and type 2 diabetes affect older Americans disproportionately when compared to younger people.

Insulin Resistance

One thing that stands out as common to all these leading causes of death.

They're all rooted in insulin resistance!

What that means is your body makes plenty of insulin. Meanwhile, that insulin doesn't work very well. As you may know, insulin's job is to move glucose from the bloodstream, into the cells to use it as energy. As we get older, the toll of decades of

  • bad eating - high sugar and inflammatory fats, highly processed foods, snacking
  • poor sleep
  • no exercise

damage our glucose metabolism. Subsequently, our cells learn to resist insulin over time. Insulin resistance comes from chronic high blood glucose levels that cause chronic high insulin levels.

Lots of insulin in your blood all the time is like a constant noise in your house. After a while, you just don't hear it anymore. In the same way, your cells see lots of insulin all the time. Eventually, they learn to ignore it.

Type 2 Diabetes

Many of us already have diabetes, we just don't know it yet.

Type 2 diabetes IS insulin resistance, it's just gotten to a more severe level. Insulin resistance is a just a sightly milder form of diabetes that doesn't technically qualify as diabetes, based on some arbitrary numbers. Your body doesn't "metabolize" glucose well.

Insulin resistance leads directly or indirectly to 9 out of the top 10 leading causes of death.

Heart Disease - 23% of All Deaths

First, one of the biggest risk factors for heart disease is type 2 diabetes.

Of course, everyone knows that the biggest risk factor for heart disease is high cholesterol. Right? More specifically, high LDL or "bad cholesterol" is the fast-track to a heart attack.

Along that same line, it's not uncommon to hear someone talking about a fat-laden food like a steak or a greasy cheeseburger. They'll say, "I can almost feel my arteries slamming shut!"

The implication is that dietary fat is the primary driver of heart disease.

A clinical trial published in JAMA in 2021 followed 28,024 women for over 2 decades. Researchers measured several risk factors for heart disease. The results of the long-term study showed that insulin resistance (and type 2 diabetes) were about 4 times more likely to be associated with heart disease than high LDL cholesterol.

Patients with type 2 diabetes need to be watched carefully to make sure the arteries in their hearts don't get clogged up. The marker to be concerned about might not be LDL cholesterol.

Risk of Death from Cancer - 22%

Dr Jason Fung The Cancer Code
Second, many types of cancer cells thrive in a high glucose environment. 


Dr. Jason Fung's book, The Cancer Code, goes into some detail about something called the Warburg Effect. Without getting too technical, cancer cells basically prefer to metabolize glucose over other energy sources. Insulin resistance, that comes with increased blood glucose, encourages cancer to grow.

3rd & 4th Risks of Death

Third . . . we'll talk about the third risk of death a bit later.

Fourth . . . accidents. This is the only cause of death in the top 10 leading causes that has nothing to do with metabolic disease. Accidents are certainly tragic. But, by definition, they're accidental.

reduce risk for the 5th leading risk of death stroke

Stroke

Fifth, stroke results from blood clots and clogged arteries in the brain, which are related to insulin resistance.

Chronic Respiratory Disease

Sixth, respiratory diseases involve whole-body inflammation, which is made worse by insulin resistance.

Alzheimer's Disease

Seventh, Alzheimer's is so closely related to insulin resistance that it's often called "Type 3 Diabetes."

Diabetes

Eighth, Type 2 Diabetes, as I mentioned, IS insulin resistance, taken to a higher extreme.

Acute Respiratory Infections

Ninth, people catch infections like influenza and pneumonia all the time. They don't always die from them. But the people who do die from these relatively common infections are those with metabolic disease, especially diabetes, heart disease, or chronic respiratory disease.

Kidney Disease

And tenth, Kidney disease most often results from . . . diabetes and years of high blood glucose and high insulin damaging the kidneys . . . caused by insulin resistance. Because their kidneys no longer function, many patients with kidney disease end up on dialysis, which is sort of like an artificial kidney.

3rd Leading Cause - 345,000 Deaths

Reduce your risk for death from Covid-19

You may have noticed that I skipped number 3.

The number 3 cause of death in the US for 2020 was . . . Covid-19!

345,000 people died from Covid. That's about 13% of the total.

Most of those who died from Covid were metabolically unhealthy.

Metabolic Disease and Covid-10

Dozens, maybe even hundreds of studies show conclusively that if you have:

  • high blood pressure
  • dyslipidemia - that means problems with fats in your blood - side note - "high cholesterol" oversimplifies lipids
  • if you're overweight or obese
  • heart disease
  • type 2 diabetes
  • Alzheimer's Disease
  • cancer
  • insulin resistance - pre-diabetes
  • or almost any other metabolic disease

If you struggle with any of these metabolic diseases, you're going to fight for your life with Covid-19. As a result, you're way more likely to end up in the ICU. Subsequently, doctors may place you on a ventilator. Metabolically unhealthy patients die much more often from Covid-19 than healthy patients.

Side Note: Decreasing your metabolic disease, especially insulin resistance, offers major protection against the severity of Covid-19. Most importantly, insulin sensitivity makes you much less likely to die from a Covid-19 infection.

Metabolically Healthy People and Covid-19

That doesn't mean if you're insulin sensitive, you don't need to concern yourself with catching Covid-19. That's an entirely different thing.

A metabolically healthy person of any age can catch and be infected with Covid-19. They might not get as sick with it as a less healthy person. But they can also pass it onto other people who may not be so metabolically healthy. Vaccinations help reduce the transmission and may, to some extent, reduce the severity of the disease.

As I mentioned, insulin resistance makes people more vulnerable to respiratory disease. That includes those chronic respiratory diseases like asthma and COPD. But it also includes life-threatening respiratory infections, like influenza . . . pneumonia . . . and Covid-19.

Reduce Risk of Death Through Insulin Sensitivity

The root problem of 9 out of 10 leading causes of death is insulin resistance. Because of that, the #1 hormone optimization priority is insulin.

What steps can I take to protect myself from metabolic disease and its risks, including Covid-19?

The first thing to do is to optimize your blood glucose and insulin levels. That's how you gain and maintain insulin sensitivity.

Physiologist Benjamin Bikman, Ph.D. has written a great resource about Insulin Resistance and what to do about it. His book, Why We Get Sick, explains insulin and disease. It also guides you to some steps to take to become more insulin sensitive.

First, you can reduce carbohydrates. Above all, avoid sugar. The same goes for starches, and most grains.

Second, eat a high quality, real food diet. That means a diet free of processed foods, inflammatory fats, and toxins.

Third, you can practice intermittent fasting to increase insulin sensitivity.

Ice Cream Carton


No More 11PM Ice Cream

At a minimum, stop snacking, especially late at night.

Government guidelines and physician groups have talked up several small meals throughout for the past few decades. They haven't helped us avoid insulin resistance. Snacking causes your blood glucose to spike and fall over and over again, several times throughout the day. This pattern of high glucose, followed by insulin spikes and then cravings for more sugar always leads to insulin resistance - eventually.

Get Off the Couch

Get regular exercise. That is to say 30-60 minutes, 3 to 5 times a week. Don't just take a granny stroll. Try to get your heart rate up and work up a sweat. It might be a full-on cardio workout. You may choose running or cycling. Maybe some sport like tennis or hiking is more your speed.

Sleep helps reduce risk of death

(but Hit the Snooze)

Get plenty of quality sleep. This means at least 7-8 hours every night.

If you have any trouble breathing at night or snore much, you could be experiencing sleep apnea. Apnea is a big risk factor. It makes you more likely to develop high blood pressure, heart disease, and Alzheimer's Disease.

Therefore, it's a great idea to get checked out with a sleep study. Afterward, you may need a CPAP machine to keep your breathing constant during sleep.

Metabolic Risk Factors

You'll want to optimize the 5 most important metabolic risk factors to reduce your risk of death.

  • BMI - basal metabolic index
  • blood glucose
  • blood pressure
  • HDL - high density lipoprotein
  • triglycerides

You may struggle to optimize your insulin unless you get all your other hormones optimized. For example, optimal thyroid, estradiol, testosterone, and Vitamin D help you regain insulin sensitivity. Therefore, they protect you from the serious, very real risks of insulin resistance.

One More Thing

In conclusion, in order to optimize all your other hormones, you'll need to . . .

Ask me for a referral to a Hormone Optimization Specialist.

I know lots of hormone providers, all over the US, in Canada, and even in some other countries. I can't guarantee I can find someone in your area, but I'll give it my best shot. It's a great idea to have some help with optimizing all your hormones.

Links:
What is the metabolic health crisis? Blog post from Levels

Ahmad FB, Anderson RN. The Leading Causes of Death in the US for 2020. JAMA. 2021;325(18):1829–1830. doi:10.1001/jama.2021.5469

Dugani SB, Moorthy MV, Li C, et al. Association of Lipid, Inflammatory, and Metabolic Biomarkers With Age at Onset for Incident Coronary Heart Disease in Women. JAMA Cardiol. 2021;6(4):437–447. doi:10.1001/jamacardio.2020.7073



About the Author

I'm here to help with easy-to-understand patient education resources for both patients and healthcare practitioners. I save providers time in getting patients up to speed. I also love matching patients who need help with experienced hormone optimization practitioners.

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Patients: Find help with your hormones

I have relationships with hundreds of hormone optimization specialists, all over the US and some in other countries. I can't guarantee that I know providers in your area, but I'll give it my best shot . . .

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