“I don’t have diabetes, so I don’t have to worry about my blood sugar, right?”
That’s a common question, says Rachel Mann Knoll, DO, a family medicine provider with Hartford HealthCare Medical Group, and it’s one that can land people in trouble.
“Before developing type 2 diabetes, your body goes through many invisible changes,” says Dr. Mann Knoll. “Insulin resistance is one of the most crucial.”
What does insulin do?
Insulin is a hormone produced by the cells in our pancreas. The most important role insulin plays in our body is controlling our sugar levels, by bringing sugar into our cells.
“When we eat, our digestive system breaks food down into its simplest forms, including sugar. Sugar then triggers our body to release insulin from the pancreas, helping our bodies turn food into energy,” explains Dr. Mann Knoll.
What is insulin resistance?
But sometimes, those cells stop responding well to insulin.
“When our cells stop responding to insulin, it prevents them from picking up sugar from our blood easily. As a result, our pancreas pumps out more insulin to get the sugar into our cells, causing our insulin levels to rise and our blood sugar to rise as it is not being absorbed into cells.”
If ignored, these consistently elevated blood sugar levels can turn into prediabetes – and eventually, type 2 diabetes.
> Related: These 5 Unhealthy Habits Could Be Putting You at Risk for Diabetes
Insulin resistance doesn’t always show symptoms. But when it does, it can present as:
- Weight gain
- Dark spots and skin tags on the skin
- Infertility in some women
- Hair loss
How can I reverse insulin resistance?
The good news is, it’s not too late. A few lifestyle changes can help reverse insulin resistance.
“Monitoring your diet, avoiding sugar and exercising regularly can have a tremendous impact in reversing insulin resistance,” says Dr. Mann Knoll.
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When to see your doctor
Not everyone recognizes that they are experiencing symptoms of insulin resistance, so it’s important to see your primary care provider regularly.
“Regular checkups with a primary care provider will help us help you to prevent sickness further down the road,” Dr. Mann Knoll explains.