When our bodies are working efficiently, they break down food into glucose (blood sugar). That glucose enters the bloodstream, signaling to the pancreas to release insulin, which helps glucose enter the body’s cells for energy. Once glucose enters the cells, levels of glucose in the bloodstream decrease, which signals for a decrease in insulin. To ensure energy is always available, the liver stores glucose for use when insulin levels are low.
What is Insulin Resistance?
Some people may become insulin resistant when their systems are overloaded, and this can be very damaging to the body. This occurs because too much sugar enters the bloodstream, causing the pancreas to pump more insulin to get glucose into cells. Over time, the cells will stop responding to all that insulin; excess glucose will be stored as body fat in fat cells, and the pancreas will continue making insulin to try to make the cells respond. Eventually, the pancreas won’t be able to keep up with increased production, setting the stage for pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes.
What is Insulin?
Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas
Works like a key to allow cells to absorb/use glucose (blood sugar)
Cells turn the glucose into energy
Signals liver to store blood sugar for later use
Symptoms of Insulin Resistance
Unfortunately, there are usually no symptoms of insulin resistance until diabetes develops, but a combination of factors may be indicative of early warning signs:
High fasting blood glucose levels
High A1C test (average of blood sugar levels over previous 2-3 months)
High LDL (“bad”) cholesterol
Low HDL (“good”) cholesterol
It is important to pay attention to these tests and to consider your risk factors, other health issues that may result, and how you can prevent insulin resistance.
Excessive weight/obesity (especially around midriff)
High blood pressure
Age and ethnicity
Family history and genetics
Other health issues that may result
In addition to being a major feature of Type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance can also lead to the following:
Acanthosis nigricans: skin disorder in which dark areas form on groin, armpits, and back of neck
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): worsened symptoms of PCOS, including irregular menstrual cycles, infertility, and painful periods
Increased risk of vascular diseases and heart disease, even without diabetes
Prevention Through Lifestyle Changes
YOU CAN’T CHANGE FAMILY HISTORY OR GENETIC MAKEUP
Healthy lifestyle offers the best chance for positive outcomes
Muscles are more sensitive to insulin after exercise
Lifestyle changes really work. Talk with your health care provider about setting achievable goals.
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