Signs Of Insulin Resistance
Most people think about diabetics when they see the word insulin, but problems with insulin can occur in a number of different conditions, in people with normal blood sugar. You have probably heard of insulin resistance it is a significant health problem because it’s associated with an increased risk of obesity, heart attacks, polycystic ovarian syndrome, cancer and other serious conditions. People with insulin resistance usually have excessively high levels of this hormone, because it doesn’t work properly. We are seeing an increasing number of patients who have been diagnosed with insulin resistance by their own doctor, yet they don’t fully understand what this term means.
How would you know if your insulin level is too high?
There is a blood test that can measure your fasting insulin, but it isn’t always reliable and many doctors are not willing to order this test. This is a shame because elevated insulin is bad for your health and shortens your lifespan.
Insulin has many important roles in your body. People with too much insulin in their bloodstream are said to have insulin resistance, syndrome X, metabolic syndrome or pre-diabetes. They are all interchangeable terms.
Knowing whether or not you have too high insulin is important because it can allow you to make some changes and avoid some serious health problems in the future. Luckily there are several tell tale signs or clues that your body gives you, alerting you to this problem.
The role of insulin in your body
How Can Insulin Resistance Cause All These Widespread Problems
The answer lies in the arteries, which are found throughout your body, especially in the organs. Over time, high amounts of sugar and insulin in the blood damage the lining of our arteries. The damage weakens the arterial lining and makes it easier for cholesterol molecules to enter through the artery wall. This cholesterol builds up inside the artery as plaque. This narrows the opening in the artery. When the immune system attacks the plaque and liquifies it, this liquid plaque can squirt into the artery, causing a clot. As we know, clots can result in heart problems and stroke.
Read more about artery cleansing foods.
Meanwhile, our white blood cells in our immune system attacks these plaques, producing inflammation in the body â what medical folks call a liquid âhotâ plaque. It doesnât sound good, and itâs not. This immune response can lead to blood clots. A narrowed artery and increased clots are the perfect recipe for heart disease and strokes.
We used to think that eating eggs and other foods with cholesterol caused heart attacks and strokes. We now know that insulin resistance and excess insulin and sugar in the blood is a far bigger culprit.
The damage happens even before diabetes is officially diagnosed
As I tell my patients, the goal should be to reverse insulin resistance as much as you possibly can.
What Insulin Resistance Means For Your Diabetes Health
There are degrees of insulin resistancethe more resistant you are, the more work and the more insulin youll need to keep blood sugar levels in your normal or target range and keep any of a number of diabetes-related complications at bay. Its also not just a hallmark of people with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes. While insulin resistance doesnt cause type 1 diabetes, you can be insulin resistant if you have type 1 diabetes.
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Health Conditions Related To Insulin Resistance
An estimated 87 million American adults have prediabetes 30-50% will go on to develop full-blown type 2 diabetes. In addition, up to 80% of people with type 2 diabetes have NAFLD.9 But those arent the only threats posed by insulin resistance.
Thanks to years of high insulin levels followed by an onslaught of cell-damaging high blood sugar, people with insulin resistance, prediabetes, and type 2 diabetes are at high risk for cardiovascular disease. Insulin resistance doubles your risk for heart attack and stroke and triples the odds that your heart attack or brain attack will be deadly, according to the International Diabetes Federation.10Meanwhile, insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome are also linked with higher risk for cancers of the bladder, breast, colon, cervix, pancreas, prostate and uterus.11, 12 The connection: High insulin levels early in insulin resistance seem to fuel the growth of tumors and to suppress the bodys ability to protect itself by killing off malignant cells. 13
Research has also found a strong association between insulin resistance and memory function decline, increasing the risk for Alzheimers disease.
What Does It Mean For Your Health
Insulin resistance comes in degrees. The more insulin resistant a person with type 2 is, the harder it will be to manage their diabetes because more medication is needed to get enough insulin in the body to achieve target blood sugar levels.
Insulin resistance isn’t a cause of type 1 diabetes, but people with type 1 who are insulin resistant will need higher insulin doses to keep their blood sugar under control than those who are more sensitive to insulin. As with type 2, people with type 1 may be genetically predisposed to become insulin resistant, or they may develop resistance due to being overweight. Some research indicates that insulin resistance is a factor in cardiovascular disease and other complications in people with type 1.
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About The Blood Test Results
If your test results indicate that you have prediabetes, your doctor will likely recommend lifestyle changes, such as:
- eating a balanced, nutritious diet
- increasing your physical activity
- losing weight, if you have overweight
- quitting smoking, if you smoke
These types of changes may help your body use insulin more effectively and prevent prediabetes from progressing to diabetes.
Insulin And Insulin Resistance: Causes Symptoms & Treatments
Insulin plays an essential role in your overall health. An imbalance in how your body uses insulin can lead to various diseases. To make sense of the effects of insulin resistance, It’s important to understand the role insulin plays in your body. Especially if you’re diagnosed as insulin resistance because this understanding will help you better manage your insulin.
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What Is The Difference Between Type 2 Diabetes And Insulin Resistance
What many people dont realize is that type 2 diabetes is a condition that takes many years to manifest. The body goes from functioning normally to over secreting insulin in response to the cells not being sensitive to insulin > pancreas not being able to make enough insulin to keep blood sugar in normal range > blood sugar gets more elevated . Once diagnosed with prediabetes, you have a 50% chance of developing diabetes over the next 5-10 years unless you do something about it. The insulin resistance could have occurred for many years prior to diagnosis of prediabetes. Read my original blog post to find out why insulin resistance occurs.
What To Do Now If You Are Insulin Resistant
If youre insulin resistant, the good news is that you can take control by addressing it now.
Lose weight. Even a small amount of weight loss can help to reduce insulin resistance. By following the diet and exercise tips that follow, weight loss is often a natural result.
Change your diet. Restrict your carbohydrate intake by eliminating processed and fast foods, instead focusing on getting your carbs from nuts and seeds, vegetables and small amounts of fruit. Include moderate amounts of healthy fats, from sources like avocados, coconut oil, extra-virgin olive oil and nuts instead of following a strict low-fat diet. You should also include cold-water fish like wild-caught salmon, which is high in omega-3 fatty acids that can help combat the pro-inflammatory effects of insulin improving the cells response to the hormone.
Get regular exercise. Getting regular exercise is a must for a healthy body and mind, as well as combatting insulin resistance. Vigorous cardio exercise helps to decrease the cells resistance to insulin. Aim for 30 minutes per day, but if you havent been exercising, youll need to slowly work up to that amount. Also, dont forget the value of resistance training. It all matters and will make a huge difference in how your body looks and feels.
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How Insulin Resistance Leads To Diabetes
As insulin resistance develops, your body fights back by producing more insulin. Over months and years, the beta cells in your pancreas that are working so hard to make insulin get worn out and can no longer keep pace with the demand for more and more insulin. Then years after insulin resistance silently began your blood sugar may begin to rise and you may develop prediabetes or type 2 diabetes. You may also develop non-alcoholic fatty liver disease , a growing problem associated with insulin resistance that boosts your risk for liver damage and heart disease. 5
Can I Reverse Insulin Resistance
Insulin resistance has several causes and contributing factors. While lifestyle changes, such as eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly and losing excess weight, can increase insulin sensitivity and decrease insulin resistance, not all causes are reversible.
Talk you your healthcare provider about what you can do to best manage insulin resistance.
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When Should I See My Healthcare Provider About Insulin Resistance
If youve been diagnosed with insulin resistance or conditions related to insulin resistance, its important to see your healthcare provider regularly to make sure your blood sugar levels are in a healthy range and that your treatment is working.
If youre experiencing symptoms of high blood sugar or prediabetes, contact your healthcare provider. They can run simple tests to check your blood sugar levels.
If you have a family history of diabetes or conditions that can cause insulin resistance, talk to your healthcare provider about your risk of developing insulin resistance.
Physical Activity And Exercise
Muscles burn glucose for energy. The more you move, the more glucose your muscles take out of the blood for energy use, which helps to lower your blood sugar levels. This allows for a reduction in insulin secretion, lessening the burden on your pancreas.
Likewise, muscles that dont move dont use up blood sugar, so insulin levels can rise to process any excess. Studies show that a mere five days of bed rest induces a state of insulin resistance in completely healthy volunteers.27 Multiple studies show that long-term inactivity is strongly associated with insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome and pre-diabetes.28
Any type of regular movement can help. Studies suggest that high-intensity interval training , resistance training, and cardio training all improve glucose utilization and thereby improve insulin sensitivity.29
No matter what your preferred form of movement or exercise, it is clear: inactivity can lead to insulin resistance. And movement increases insulin sensitivity as long as the exercise continues.30 So if you stop moving regularly, insulin resistance may come back.
One more thing on exercise: you likely cannot outrun a bad diet. Exercising regularly but still eating a high-carbohydrate, high-sugar diet will likely partially, if not completely, counteract many of the benefits derived from exercise.31
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How Is Insulin Resistance Treated
Since not all factors that contribute to insulin resistance can be treated, such as genetic factors and age, lifestyle modifications are the primary treatment for insulin resistance. Lifestyle modifications include:
- Eating a healthy diet: Your healthcare provider or nutritionist may recommend avoiding eating excessive amounts of carbohydrates and eating less unhealthy fat, sugar, red meats and processed starches. Instead, theyll likely recommend eating a diet of whole foods that includes more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fish and lean poultry.
- Physical activity: Getting regular amounts of moderate-intensity physical activity helps increase glucose energy usage and improve muscle insulin sensitivity. A single session of moderate-intensity exercise can increase glucose uptake by at least 40%.
- Losing excess weight: Your healthcare provider may recommend trying to lose excess weight to try treating insulin resistance. One study revealed that losing 7% of your excess weight can reduce the onset of Type 2 diabetes by 58%.
Over time, these lifestyle modifications can:
- Increase insulin sensitivity .
- Lower your blood glucose levels.
- Raise HDL cholesterol levels.
You may work with other healthcare providers, such as a nutritionist and endocrinologist, in addition to your regular doctor to come up with an individualized treatment plan that works best for you.
The Types Of Insulin Resistance Tests
Insulin resistance is not something that is commonly tested for. However, if prediabetes or type 2 diabetes is suspected, a doctor will perform an insulin resistance test.
The most commonly used insulin resistance tests are:
Fasting plasma glucose test
An FPG test is used to diagnose prediabetes and diabetes by testing a persons blood sugar level after they have not eaten for 8 to 12 hours usually overnight. When you have an annual physical, the standard blood panel includes an FPG test, which makes it the most common type of insulin resistance test.
Oral glucose tolerance test
An OGTT is performed after an overnight fast. A healthcare professional starts by taking a blood sample, and then you are instructed to drink a high-glucose beverage. Additional blood samples are taken at specific intervals for two to three hours, and the results are compared to analyze how your body processes glucose over time. This test is not used as often as others.
Random blood glucose test
An RBG test measures your blood sugar at any time throughout the day, without the need for fasting. This test is performed when a quick diagnosis is necessary.
The CDC classifies the following results for each blood test:
|n/a||Under 140 mg/dL|
If you are diagnosed with prediabetes, the ADA recommends being checked for type 2 diabetes every 1-2 years.
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Insulin Resistance: Dealing With The Diagnosis
When my daughter was a pre-teen, her routine blood glucose test came back a little high. Her pediatrician had her undergo a special test called a fasting blood glucose test, which was followed by a series of other tests. The results prompted her doctor to come back with a chilling diagnosis: insulin resistance.
As a pediatric nurse, I was familiar with the topic of diabetes and insulin resistance, but this was a frightening diagnosis. My daughter was very upset, thinking she now had a terrible disease. And both my husband and daughter turned to me for ways to deal with this new diagnosis.
What is insulin resistance?
It’s a condition in which the hormone, insulin, becomes less effective at managing sugar levels in the blood glucose after eating or drinking anything that contains a simple sugar.
Insulin is produced by the pancreas and acts to open the doors of the cells, taking glucose out of the bloodstream and putting it into the cells for energy. When cells don’t respond enough to insulin, blood glucose levels rise as a result.
How serious is insulin resistance?
The presence of insulin resistance typically precedes the diagnosis of type 2 diabetes, previously known as adult onset diabetes. When an individual has diabetes, his or her pancreas does not make enough insulin to keep blood sugars level. This is a chronic disease which can result in a number of side effects and disabilities.
How do I know if my child has insulin resistance?
I Stands For Ideal Bodyweight
Being overweight elevates your risk for most chronic diseases, and is caused by the accumulation of fat in your adipose tissue as well as in tissues that are not designed to store fat, like your muscles and liver.
You can monitor your bodyweight on an inexpensive bathroom scale to measure your progress at achieving your ideal bodyweight and reversing insulin resistance. Here is how you calculate your ideal weight:
How to Calculate Your Ideal Bodyweight for Women
Measure your height in inches. The first 5 feet of height is equal to 105 pounds, and every inch thereafter is equal to approximately 4 pounds.
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What Is The Prognosis For Insulin Resistance
The prognosis of insulin resistance depends on several factors, including:
- The cause of insulin resistance.
- The severity of insulin resistance.
- How well your insulin-producing cells are working.
- How susceptible you are to developing complications from insulin resistance.
- Adherence to treatment and your bodys response to treatment.
People can have mild insulin resistance that never turns into prediabetes or Type 2 diabetes. People can also have insulin resistance thats reversible or very manageable with lifestyle changes. For some people who have inherited conditions that cause severe insulin resistance, it can be life-threatening or lead to death.
If you have insulin resistance, ask your healthcare provider about what you can expect and how best to manage it.
Fasting Plasma Glucose Test
Before the FPG test, your doctor will ask you to fast for at least 8 hours. They will then usually test your FPG levels first thing in the morning.
- A healthy FPG level is less than 100 milligrams per deciliter .
- FPG levels of 100125 mg/dL can suggest prediabetes.
- FPG levels of 126 mg/dL or over can indicate diabetes.
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How To Accurately Assess Your Level Of Insulin Resistance
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Understanding insulin resistance can be somewhat challenging, but it doesnt have to be.
At Mastering Diabetes, our mission is to provide you with a clear understanding of what causes insulin resistance, and provide you with the tools to reverse it using your food as medicine, so that you can maximize your metabolic health safely and effectively.
Our team hears the following statement all the time: My A1c is now in the non-diabetic range. Does that mean that I reversed insulin resistance completely? If not, what am I supposed to do now?
The what now? part of the question is important, because if youve fully adopted a low-fat, plant-based, whole-food lifestyle, then your habits will continue to improve your insulin sensitivity over time.