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Insulin Resistance - An Overview

written by: K. A. Arbuckle • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 5/18/2011

Insulin resistance has numerous symptoms, some of which are difficult to identify. Often combined with other health conditions and metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance is a precursor to diabetes and heart disease.

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    Insulin Resistance

    The foods that you eat provide your body with glucose. Insulin, a hormone secreted by the pancreas, breaks up glucose into usable fuel for the body. Insulin resistance occurs when the cells no longer use insulin correctly. As a result, both insulin and blood glucose levels rise. The condition leads to type 2 diabetes and offer coincides with other medical problems. Insulin resistance with high triglycerides, high cholesterol and excess belly fat make up a condition called metabolic syndrome, or syndrome x.

    Several risk factors contribute to the development of insulin resistance.

    • physical inactivity
    • having gestational diabetes or giving birth to a baby weighing over 9 lbs
    • polycystic ovary syndrome
    • a parent or sibling with diabetes
    • a family background of Native American, Pacific Islander, African American, Asian American or Hispanic
    • high blood pressure
    • obesity
    • impaired glucose levels

    If you have a high risk for insulin resistance or diabetes, seek medical care if any symptoms appear.

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    Symptoms

    The signs and symptoms of insulin resistance often take years to manifest. They can also vary, but often resemble diabetic symptoms. Insulin resistance can contribute to unexplained weight gain due to the excess insulin causing fat storage. Some symptoms are caused by the high levels of blood glucose and include dry eyes, excessive thirst and frequent urination. Dark patches of skin may appear on the body.

    Another sign is reactive hypoglycemia. This occurs when the pancreas pumps out excessive amounts of insulin to correct high blood glucose caused by resistance. The insulin finally works, but it drops the blood glucose levels quickly to very low levels. The resulting symptoms include dizziness, hunger, anxiety, weakness, headaches and palpitations.

    In cases where insulin resistance is part of metabolic syndrome, other signs will appear. A level of triglycerides over 150 mg, low 'good' cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, higher than normal levels on a fasting blood glucose test and fat storage int eh midsection.

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    Diagnosis & Treatment

    Diagnosing insulin resistance can prove problematic. By the time symptoms develop, the condition may have already progressed into metabolic syndrome, prediabetes or type 2 diabetes. Your medical professional can order blood tests and glucose tests. Testing insulin levels, while a clear diagnosing tool, is often not an option due to costs. In most cases, insulin resistance isn't discovered until an individual shows prediabetic levels of blood glucose in the blood.

    Treatment depends on the advancement of the insulin resistance. Those in early stages or who are prediabetic can delay or reverse the onset of diabetes through dietary changes and exercise. Reducing simple carbohydrates, eating appropriately sized portions and exercising 30 minutes a day five time a week helps. Strength training builds muscles that increase insulin sensitivity.

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    References

    NDIC: Insulin Resistance and Pre-diabetes

    http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/insulinresistance/

    American Family Physician: Insulin Resisatnce Syndrome

    http://www.aafp.org/afp/2001/0315/p1159.html

    National Insulin resiatnce Council

    http://www.insulinresistancecouncil.org/irbasics.htm

    EIR: Hypoglycemia and Insulin Resistance

    http://www.ei-resource.org/illness-information/related-conditions/hypoglycemia-&-insulin-resistance/