Insulin resistance usually develops over time. It often happens as a precursor or in conjunction with prediabetes, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. As blood glucose levels raise, the pancreas pumps out increasing amounts of insulin, a hormone used to break down glucose. A person with insulin resistance cannot properly use the insulin to break down the glucose for energy because the muscle, fat and liver cells stop responding as they should, causing a spike in blood sugar levels. Reversing insulin resistance may be possible depending on the cause and how advanced the situation has become.
Insulin resistance can have more than one cause. In some cases, the condition is linked to genetic inclinations for developing it. Excess weight, high amounts of body fat and a sedentary lifestyle also contribute to the development of insulin resistance. It is also present in people with metabolic syndrome, or syndrome X, a combination of conditions including insulin resistance, cardiovascular disease and high levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
Symptoms of insulin resistance may not appear until the conditions has advanced into diabetes or metabolic syndrome. Any symptoms of diabetes, such as excessive thirst, blurred vision, numbness in the extremities and unaccounted for weight changes, should be reported to a health care provider as they could signal high blood glucose levels. Tests will then be performed to diagnose any conditions present.
While a specific test that measures insulin levels in the blood is available, it isn’t widely used due to cost. Tests for diabetes, including a fasting glucose test and a glucose tolerance test, as well as tests for other markers for metabolic syndrome, are performed instead, with insulin resistance being assumed present, according to the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse.
Reversing Insulin Resistance
Insulin resistance can be reversed in many people, but the risk will still be there. Exercise and diet have proven successful at reversing the condition and delaying the onset of diabetes. Exercise should include 30 minutes a day five days a week. Exercise increases the body’s responsiveness to insulin, helping with the resistance. A weight loss of at least 5 to 7 percent of the total body weight reduces the risk of developing diabetes.
Dietary changes can effectively lower blood glucose levels. A healthy diet should be low in simple carbohydrates and sugars and high in vegetables, greens, fruits, fish, lean proteins and fiber. While it is called reversing, it technically works more like remission. If unhealthy habits return, so will the elevated levels of insulin and blood glucose. Currently the FDA has not approved any medication to treat insulin resistance.
National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse: Insulin Resistance and Prediabetes
FamilyDoctor.org: Metabolic Syndrome