Insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, enables the absorption and use of glucose by cells. The cells are not able to use insulin efficiently in individuals with insulin resistance.
If the cells are unable to consume glucose, these sugar levels build up in the blood. If glucose, or blood sugar, is higher than normal but not high enough to indicate diabetes, that is what physicians refer to as prediabetes.
Prediabetes also occurs in people with a high resistance to insulin. According to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( CDC) about 1 in 3 people in the United States have prediabetes.
We look at the current understanding of insulin resistance in this article, and explain its role as a risk factor for diabetes and other conditions.
We also identify the insulin resistance signs and symptoms, and ways to prevent it.
What is insulin resistance?
Insulin resistance occurs when excess glucose in the blood reduces the cells’ ability to absorb blood sugar and use it for energy.
When the pancreas is able to produce enough insulin to overcome the low absorption rate, diabetes is less likely to develop and blood glucose may stay within a safe range.
How does insulin resistance become diabetes?
The pancreas works extremely hard in a person with prediabetes to release enough insulin to resolve the body’s resistance and keep the blood sugar levels down.
With time , the ability of the pancreas to release insulin starts to decline, resulting in type 2 diabetes developing.
Insulin resistance remains a significant trait of type 2 diabetes.
Insulin is important in controlling the amount of glucose circulating in the bloodstream. It induces the cells to absorb glucose.
Insulin is also the chemical messenger that instructs the liver to store some glucose in the bloodstream, rather than releasing it. The liver packages glucose in the form of glycogen for storage.
Insulin usually helps the body maintain a good energy balance, allowing blood glucose levels never to spike too long.
The causes for insulin resistance are still complex, and researchers are still investigating.
- The following steps outline the medical community’s current understanding of insulin resistance:
- The body’s cells become less affected by insulin.
- This resistance initially causes the pancreas to secrete more insulin, in order to maintain safe blood sugar levels.
- The pancreas becomes unable to maintain the release of extra insulin to compensate for the cells’ increasing resistance.
- Consistently high levels of blood glucose develop, progressing into prediabetes and type 2 diabetes if a person does not adopt management strategies and receive treatment.
Insulin resistance usually does not show symptoms until diabetes begins to develop. The CDC reports that 90 percent of prediabetes patients do not know they have the status.
The following health problems can also result in insulin resistance:
- Acanthosis nigricans: This skin condition can develop in people with insulin resistance. It involves dark patches forming on the groin, armpits, and the back of the neck.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): Insulin resistance can worsen the symptoms of PCOS, which can include irregular menstrual cycles, infertility, and periods that cause pain.
The following are risk factors for insulin resistance, prediabetes, and diabetes:
- being overweight or having obesity, especially when the extra weight is around the midriff
- a sedentary lifestyle or one that is low in exercise
- sleep issues
- high blood pressure, which one 2018 study has linked to an increased risk of insulin resistance
Many prediabetes and diabetes risk factors are also risk factors for heart disease and other cardiovascular and cerebrovascular health problems, such as stroke and heart disease.
Since some of these risk factors are common and can be prevented, such as obesity, health authorities are concentrating more on lifestyle changes that can help to minimize the risk of the disease.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suggests that diabetes tests be performed for all people who are overweight and over 45 years old.
A number of tests can help diagnose prediabetes and diabetes:
- A1C test: This measures a person’s average blood sugar level over the previous 2–3 months.
- Fasting blood glucose test: A doctor checks glucose levels after a person refrains from eating or drinking for 8 or more hours.
- Random glucose test: This involves a medical professional checking blood glucose levels at some point during the day.
Doctors usually request more than one of these tests to make sure the diagnosis is correct.
If blood sugar levels fall regularly below a normal range, it may mean that the body is insulin resistant.
Some risk factors to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, such as family history and genetic makeup, can not be influenced.
A person can, however, take some steps to lower the chances of becoming insulin resistant. Some of the same strategies are key to preventing stroke and heart disease.
The American Heart Association ( AHA) also reports that individuals may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by making changes in the preventive lifestyle, primarily through weight loss and increased physical activity.
After exercise , the muscles are more responsive to insulin and a person with an active, safe lifestyle can reverse insulin resistance.
Although a diagnosis of insulin resistance or prediabetes that cause concern, making rushed changes in lifestyle and expecting immediate outcomes is not a sustainable way forward.
Instead, gradually increase physical activity levels, replace one item per meal with a healthy, low-carbohydrate option, and be sure to keep that up, week after week.
Slow, sustainable improvements are the most effective way of reducing insulin resistance.
Prediabetes is nothing more than a warning.
Research, including the landmark Diabetes Prevention Program, shows that lifestyle changes can reduce the risk of diabetes prediabetes progression by more than 58 percent.
Today, take action to reduce insulin resistance and diabetes risk.
I am suffering from type 2 diabetes. Should I start taking insulin daily?
No, having type 2 diabetes doesn’t automatically mean you’ll need to take insulin. Actually modifying the diet to reduce carbohydrate intake, and increasing the amount of exercise may regulate blood sugar for some people, particularly in the early stages.
Typically, the next step towards recovery is oral medication. Although insulin is often needed for Type 2 diabetes, other treatment options are usually attempted before insulin.
Answers represent our medical experts’ opinions. All material is purely informational and medical advice should not be considered.