Insulin Resistance: The Definition

If you’ve been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes or prediabetes, you’ve probably heard your doctor mention the term insulin resistance. According to the American Diabetes Association, insulin resistance is a condition where one has built up a tolerance to insulin, making it less effective. Insulin resistance is actually part of a larger group of conditions called “Metabolic Syndrome.” This syndrome can increase the risk of certain conditions, like coronary artery disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. Although insulin resistance is a hallmark of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes, it may also affect those with type 1.

Why is Insulin Important?

Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that helps the body’s cells take in the sugar (or glucose) we get from food and use it as energy. People with type 1 diabetes typically don’t produce enough insulin. This means that glucose can’t get into the cells to be used for energy, so all that extra sugar builds up in the bloodstream. In contrast, with insulin resistance, the body works overtime to produce more insulin because more is needed as cells are resistant to it.

Signs, Symptoms, & Stats

Insulin resistance typically develops slowly and doesn’t cause any obvious symptoms right away. Signs and symptoms of insulin resistance may include nonspecific things, such as low energy, which can be attributed to many other things. Researchers aren’t sure exactly what causes insulin resistance, but they do know that as many as 1 in 3 of American adults deal with it. Certain health concerns, such as obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and heart disease, are considered risk factors for insulin resistance. New research has shown that insulin resistance also increases with age. People over the age of 60 have a 30% greater chance of developing the condition than young adults. Doctors also believe insulin resistance, like diabetes, may run in families.

Treating Insulin Resistance

The first line of treatment for insulin resistance is lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise. There are no medications specifically approved to treat insulin resistance but diabetes medications can be used to improve it. Research shows the diabetes drug metformin can help improve the effects of insulin resistance. However, if you’ve been diagnosed with insulin resistance or have been told you are at risk for it, it’s important to know that making a few lifestyle changes can prevent you from having to start taking medication for it.

Lifestyle Changes

Maintaining a healthy weight can help your body better respond to insulin. Just 30 minutes of moderate activity, five days per week, can help you burn fat and strengthen your cardiovascular system. A healthy diet will also help reverse the effects of prediabetes. Make sure you are eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day, combined with whole grains and lean proteins. Reduce the amount of fats, sugars, and oils you’re eating. Finally, a few healthy habits including sleeping for 8-9 hours each night, solid stress management techniques, & a support system, will also go a long way in improving your overall well being.