Insulin, made in the pancreas, is an important hormone that controls many body processes. It signals our cells to absorb and use glucose (sugar). It also plays a role in fat and protein metabolism. When you eat a meal that includes many carbohydrates, the amount of glucose in your bloodstream increases. Sensing this, your pancreas releases insulin to travel around your bloodstream and pick up sugar from your blood and deliver it to the appropriate places for our body’s fuel source-this process lowers blood sugars.

Insulin resistance is when your cells stop responding to insulin. Because the cells are not responding, the pancreas increases how much insulin it is producing and releasing resulting in high insulin levels. Over time, the cells become resistant to, or can’t use the insulin. The high insulin levels result in a rise in the blood sugar, which potentially leads to Type II diabetes. It is estimated that up to 87 MILLION Americans have prediabetes with up to 50% progressing on to diabetes. Having insulin resistance, prediabetes, or type 2 diabetes doubles the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Some causes of insulin resistance include:

  • increased waist circumference
  • being overweight
  • sedentary
  • smoking
  • heavy alcohol use
  • sleep disturbances
  • increased blood pressure
  • high triglyceride levels
  • runs in families

Signs and symptoms of insulin resistance:

  • dark skin patches on the back of your neck
  • high triglycerides
  • high blood pressure
  • high fasting blood sugar

Insulin resistance can be diagnosed by your primary care provider utilizing several different tests including fasting blood sugar, Hemoglobin A1c, and in some settings a test of insulin resistance called a HOMA-IR.

Treatment/reversing insulin resistance includes:

  • losing weight (even 5% of body weight will improve insulin resistance)
  • increasing activity levels
  • treating sleep disorders and/or improving sleep habits
  • quitting smoking

Cindy Peterson, ARNP