As human beings, we live in an age and the land of plenty. Our life expectancy has increased, whilst birth rates and the rate of infectious diseases are both down. Agricultural advances bring food and water to our table without much personal input and technological advances have surrounded us with labor-saving appliances and equipment. These advances of the 21st Century provide an enormous number of benefits for our societies but have had negative impacts on our health.
Malnutrition, unhealthy diet, smoking, alcohol consumption, drug abuse, and stress are the manifestations of the unhealthy lifestyle that has become dominant in recent years. As a result; the rate of metabolic diseases, joint and skeletal problems, cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, and obesity have skyrocketed. One problem, in particular, known as “Insulin Resistance”, has become a major issue. This article is a guide to how to recognize the symptoms of insulin resistance.
What is Insulin Resistance?
Insulin is a hormone that is naturally produced in our pancreas and released into your blood. Once entering your blood, insulin has two major functions:
- Insulin takes sugar out of your blood and sends it into your cells to be used for energy.
- Insulin takes sugar out of your blood and stores it in muscles, fat cells, and the liver for later use.
Insulin resistance is when cells in your muscles, fat & liver don’t respond to insulin the way they should and can’t use glucose from your blood for energy. To try and combat the excess blood in your blood, your pancreas makes more insulin. Over time, your blood sugar levels increase and the risk of developing prediabetes (and eventually, type 2 diabetes) also goes up. Type 2 diabetes can be deadly, so you must take the correct preventative measures.
What Factors Lead to Insulin Resistance?
Other than the genetic factors which are believed to play a big part in the cause of insulin resistance, here are some of its other potential causes:
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) in woman
- Long-term steroid use
- Chronic stress
- Being overweight or obese
- Inactive lifestyle
- High-carbohydrate or high-sugar diet
At first, your body’s solution to dealing with insulin resistance is releasing more insulin, which will help to keep your blood sugar levels normal. During this period, you may not have any noticeable symptoms of the illness. But over time, as the illness gets worse, producing more insulin will cease to be effective. You may notice symptoms like excessive thirst, frequent urination, and headaches which means you should start monitoring your glucose levels to see if there is a big problem. Unfortunately, no insulin resistance test is commonly used in medicine, but some other facts are worth noting:
Obesity is a growing problem all over the world and there are many related health risks and diseases that come as a result of obesity. One of these is an increased chance of insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome, which is also related to insulin resistance. Obesity is usually linked to an excess sugar intake which can be particularly dangerous for people with insulin resistance because their blood sugar levels can rise rapidly.
Additional Signs of Metabolic Syndrome
You will have to see a doctor to get a blood test for this one (Fasting plasma glucose test, Oral glucose tolerance test & Hemoglobin A1c test)
- High triglycerides levels: over 150 mg/dL
- Low HDL levels: below 50 for women and 40 for men
- High blood pressure levels: 130/85 mmHg or higher
- High blood sugar levels: 100-125 mg/dL (the prediabetes range) or over 125 (diabetes)
- High fasting blood sugar: an early sign of diabetes
Dark Skin Patches
Noticeable skin changes will appear if insulin resistance is severe enough, consisting of patches of darkened skin on the back of your neck or your elbows, knees, knuckles, or armpits (also known as “acanthosis nigricans”).
Insulin resistance can cause some serious problems and if you experience any symptoms or suspect that you are sick, it is so important to make an appointment to see your doctor. Far too many people are reluctant to seek medical help and prefer to self-diagnose with online medical information. This can be extremely dangerous because a lot of the information on the internet is inaccurate and more often than not people end up making the wrong diagnosis. Do not wait until something is wrong to start looking after your health. Always be proactive. There are many simple ways you can help improve insulin sensitivity including exercising regularly, losing weight, and adopting a healthy, balanced diet.