What is insulin resistance?
In order to understand diabetes & its root causes, one needs to properly understand insulin resistance’s meaning. Insulin resistance, also known as metabolic syndrome, is a condition in which the cells present in the muscles, fat and liver are unable to respond to insulin effectively. Hence, it’s not possible to use glucose in the blood as an energy source. This triggers the pancreas to produce more insulin leading to elevated blood sugar level. This is what insulin resistance is.
Insulin is a naturally occurring hormone secreted by the pancreas and it helps the body use sugar for energy.
Insulin resistance includes problems like type 2 diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and cholesterol. Studies say that one in three Americans are affected by this condition.
Let’s now learn the correlation of insulin resistance & diabetes.
Insulin resistance & diabetes:
Insulin resistance is a characteristic of type 2 diabetes. The pancreas work hard to keep producing insulin to overcome insulin resistance, and to keep the blood sugar levels down. As this continues for a long period of time, the pancreas loses its ability to secrete insulin. This leads to prediabetes and then type 2 diabetes.
This answers the question ‘what is insulin resistance’ & this is how insulin resistance & diabetes are connected
Causes of insulin resistance:
The exact causes of Insulin resistance are yet to be definitively established. However, there are a few causes that lead to insulin resistance in one way or the other:
- Family history: People with a family history of type 2 diabetes are more likely to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
- Overweight: Too much fat around the organs and in the abdomen is one main cause of insulin resistance.
- Ethnicity: People from certain ethnic backgrounds are more likely to get insulin resistance than others.
- Low physical activity is one of the causes of insulin resistance.
- Inflammation: Inflammation inside the body can lead to this condition.
- Gut microbiota: Disrupted bacterial environment in the gut can cause inflammation and hence causes insulin resistance
In order to quickly recap on ‘what is insulin resistance’ & the risk factors associated with it, read further.
There are certain factors that increase the chances of getting insulin resistance. These are:
- A diet rich in Carbs
- Hormonal diseases
- Certain medications
- High blood pressure
- Diagnosed with gestational diabetes
- Sleep disorders
- Heart condition and stroke
Symptoms of Insulin resistance:
Insulin resistance and prediabetes don’t usually have many symptoms. The symptoms are very widely noticed when it becomes type 2 diabetes. Some symptoms of insulin resistance are:
- Getting tired frequently
- Excessive sweating
- Feeling hungry after a meal
- Frequent urination
- Frequent infections
- Tingling feeling in hands or feet
- Acanthosis nigricans: It is a condition characterized by dark patches of skin over some parts of the body.
- Skin tags: These are small skin growths usually present in the same area as acanthosis nigricans.
These are all some of the symptoms of insulin resistance. To understand more on ‘what is insulin resistance’ & how it can be tested read further.
Insulin resistance test:
Doctors have different methods to test for prediabetes and diabetes. The insulin resistance tests are complicated and are usually used for research purposes. The testing starts with:
- Questions related to family history: Doctors ask this to know if there are any blood relatives who are/were diagnosed with diabetes or prediabetes or insulin resistance.
- Physical exam: This is done to calculate the weight and height. Knowing this will make the doctors aware if the patient is obese or not.
- The next step is the different tests i.e. blood tests & other tests that can be done.
Knowing these tests & procedures helps you further understand the question, ‘What is insulin resistance?’. Read on.
This test is one way to diagnose diabetes or prediabetes. This test is done to know the average blood sugar level for a period of two to three months. If one is already diagnosed with diabetes, this test helps to know if the blood sugar levels are under control or not. The metrics and the respective results for this test are as follows.
In A1C, if the results are <5.7 per cent it means the levels are normal. For a score between 5.7 – 6.4 per cent, it infers that the patient is diagnosed with prediabetes. For scores equal to and above 6.5 per cent, it infers that the patient is diagnosed with diabetes.
Fasting Plasma Glucose test:
This test is done after not eating or drinking for a minimum period of 8 hours. This test gives the fasting blood sugar level. When the test gives a high level of glucose as a result, the doctor usually asks for the test to be taken for the second time. This is done to confirm the readings. The test metrics and results are as follows:
Blood sugar levels under 100 mg/dL (milligrams/deciliter) are considered to be normal. Levels between 100 and 125 mg/dL mean that the person is diagnosed with prediabetes. For levels equal to and above 126 mg/dL indicates diabetes.
Glucose tolerance testing:
This 2-hour testing process is used to diagnose prediabetes and diabetes. First, the fasting glucose level is measured. Now a sugary drink is provided. This drink is pre-measured on all-important metrics. After 2 hours, the blood sugar level is again measured. This test is done to understand how the body handles glucose after a meal.
After two hours, if the blood sugar level is below 140 mg/dL, it is considered to be normal. If the level is between 140 and 199 mg/dL, it indicates prediabetes. For levels equal to and above 200 mg/dL, it is inferred that the patient is diagnosed with diabetes.
Random glucose test:
This test is not usually recommended by experts and doctors. It involves medical practitioners checking the blood glucose level during any time of the day. One shouldn’t infer anything just with the results of random glucose tests.
To delve deeper into understanding ‘what is insulin resistance?’ & to know how to reverse insulin resistance read further.
How to reverse insulin resistance?
Some ways of reversing or preventing insulin resistance are as follows:
- Exercise: Some kind of physical activity can prove to be very effective
- Quit smoking
- Reducing sugar intake especially sweetened beverages
- Intake of supplements like Berberine can increase insulin sensitivity
- Losing weight or belly fat
- Healthy lifestyle
- Having a healthy high-fibre diet
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