As many as 70 million Americans are affected by insulin resistance.
But what exactly is it, and how does it put your health at risk? We asked an expert to break it down.
Insulin resistance is when you don’t produce or use insulin as well as you used to.
Insulin is a hormone produced by your pancreas that allows glucose (or sugar) to be used as energy. It also helps to control blood sugar levels.
Simply put, it’s the body’s inability to respond to insulin. And the result can be sugar surges in your bloodstream after meals or higher-than-normal levels of insulin in your body, Dr. Syed explains.
High blood sugar or insulin levels can cause other health issues.
Over time, high levels of insulin in the blood can cause chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease, including hardening of the arteries.
“Insulin resistance has also been associated with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, metabolic syndrome and polycystic ovary syndrome,” Dr. Syed adds.
5 signs of insulin resistance
While there are often no symptoms, you should be checked if you experience:
- Frequent urination
- Feeling hungry or thirsty all the time
- Changes in vision
- Weight gain
“Some people might also notice a darkening of the skin in the armpit or back region,” Dr. Syed says.
Lifestyle changes can help.
The most important way to prevent or treat it is to follow a healthy diet that limits sugar, red meats and processed starches, Dr. Syed says.
Losing weight has also been shown to decrease the risk for insulin resistance, prediabetes and diabetes. Adding regular moderate intensity physical activity to your daily routine, she continues, helps break down excess glucose and improve the insulin sensitivity of your muscles.