To really understand insulin resistance, you have to understand the role of insulin. When carbohydrates are broken down into glucose, the pancreas releases insulin to help glucose get into the cells. Then, the cells use glucose for energy.
Insulin resistance occurs when your fat, liver and muscle cells no longer respond to the insulin signal. The biological effect created by insulin becomes less effective, making it more difficult for your body to use glucose for energy. This is why the term has been coined Insulin Resistance. As your body begins to ignore the signal of insulin, your pancreas has to work harder to produce more insulin, which causes blood sugar levels to rise. Potential consequences to high insulin levels include:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Type 2 diabetes
Insulin resistance has been linked to increased risk for serious health problems, such as heart attacks, strokes, and cancer.
Causes of Insulin Resistance
The causes of insulin resistance are complex and not completely understood. However, there are numerous risk factors that are strongly associated with developing insulin resistance. The primary risk factor for developing insulin resistance is genetics - specifically, a family history of diabetes.
However, risk factors are not solely linked to those with genetic history. There are numerous physical factors that can contribute to the development of insulin resistance. Obesity is a huge risk factor, especially for those who carry a lot of visceral fat in their abdominal area. Other risk factors include a high carbohydrate diet and a lack of exercise. Furthermore, smoking, poor sleep and age all increase the risk of developing insulin resistance.
Insulin Resistance Damages the Body
You can think of Insulin Resistance as an “invisible” foe, as most people who are affected by insulin resistance do not realize that they have it. Measuring your body’s response to insulin is one of the most proactive approaches you can take to long-term health as it plays a role in developing numerous diseases. Insulin resistance damages the body and increases risk for chronic disease. Catching signs of insulin resistance early can prevent irreversible damage.
Symptoms of Insulin Resistance
Without testing, it can be difficult to detect insulin resistance early on. However, there are some symptoms of insulin resistance that present themselves once the condition is more advanced. Some severe symptoms include:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Frequent urination
- Blurry vision
- Tingling sensations in the hands and feet
How to Prevent Insulin Resistance
Although genetic history is a risk factor for insulin resistance that can’t be changed, there are lifestyle changes that reduce the risk for becoming insulin resistant.
Exercise is a great place to start. Exercise makes muscles become more sensitive to insulin, which can aid in reversing insulin resistance. If you’re looking to improve your insulin sensitivity, increasing physical activity should be a priority.
Diet should also be an important consideration when looking to decrease the risk of developing insulin resistance. Avoiding processed foods and carbohydrates is a good starting point for those working to decrease their risk for insulin resistance. Following a low-carb high-fat or plant-based diet may also help manage insulin resistance.
Due to the almost invisible nature of insulin resistance, getting tested is really the only way to know if you’re at risk. Your doctor may check for this as part of your annual physical exam.
Test Your Insulin Resistance Today