Insulin resistance occurs when the cells of the body, such as those in the liver, do not use insulin properly. The body uses insulin, secreted by the pancreas, to break down glucose into usable energy. Insulin resistance causes increased levels of blood glucose and is a precursor to diabetes. It also increases the risk for heart disease because of the role of triglycerides in insulin resistance.
When combined with high levels of trigylcerides, high cholesterol, and ‘belly fat’, it can cause metabolic syndrome. If you experience any of the signs of insulin resistance, high triglycerides, or metabolic syndrome, speak to your health care provider for testing. Tests will include fasting blood glucose tests and blood tests for lipids.
A kind of fat, or lipid, circulating in the blood and present in tissues, called triglycerides, is often high in people with insulin resistance. Triglycerides are produced when your body takes extra calories you don’t burn and stores them in cells for use later. The same lifestyle factors that contribute to the development of diabetes also affect triglyceride levels. Excess caloric intake, especially from foods like simple carbohydrates, causes an increase in triglycerides.
Normal triglyceride levels should be below 150 and elevated levels are above 200. High triglycerides lead to heart disease and stroke. Diabetes, hypothryoidism, medications, kidney and liver disease, and genetic conditions can all lead to elevated triglycerides. In addition, high levels of triglyceride can cause metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance.
Metabolic syndrome, sometimes called syndrome X, is a term used for a combination of conditions, including insulin resistance and high triglyceride levels. Medical professionals disagree on the exact causes and defining factors of metabolic syndrome according to MedlinePlus. There are, however, several markers that are linked–high triglycerides and cholesterol, elevated blood glucose, obesity and low levels of ‘good’ cholesterol. Fortunately, even with the confusion surrounding the causes, treatment can reduce symtpoms and improve all of the known markers.
Fortunately, lifestyle changes can reduce all of the contributors to metabolic syndrome. Changes in lipid levels will affect blood glucose levels as well. When one of the metabolic syndrome contributors is reduced, others show improvement. Losing weight, even 50 to 10 pounds, can reduce lipid levels, reduce blood glucose and help improve insulin sensitivity.
Weight loss is best done through a healthy diet, calorie reduction and exercise. Simple carbohydrates increase both glucose and triglyceride levels and should be limited. Healthy fats, such as omega 3, can also help. Exercise is an important part of treatment, as well. Exercising increases insulin sensitivity due to muscles using glucose more efficiently than fat cells.
MayoClinic.com: Triglycerides: Why do they matter?
National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse: Insulin Resistance and Pre-Diabetes
MedlinePlus: Metabolic Syndrome