Insulin resistance (IR) is a condition in which the body’s cells do not respond properly to insulin, leading to elevated blood sugar levels. Insulin, produced by the pancreas, regulates glucose levels in the blood by facilitating the transport of glucose from the bloodstream into cells where it can be used as energy. When cells become resistant to insulin, glucose accumulates in the bloodstream leading to hyperglycaemia, which can eventually lead to type 2 diabetes and other related health problems. The condition affects many people and can have serious implications for overall health and well-being, making it important to understand the causes, symptoms, and treatments available.

What other diseases are associated with IR?

While insulin resistance is a key factor in the development of type 2 diabetes, people with insulin resistance are also at an increased risk for other related health problems such as cardiovascular disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

IR and Prediabetes

Insulin resistance can lead to prediabetes, a condition where blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be classified as type 2 diabetes. Prediabetes is a warning sign that a person’s body is becoming less responsive to insulin and that they are at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes and other health problems. People with prediabetes can often reverse the condition by making lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, exercising regularly, and eating a healthy diet (American Diabetes Association, 2021). It is important for people who are at risk of insulin resistance and prediabetes to have regular check-ups with their healthcare provider and to take steps to prevent or manage the condition.

What Causes Insulin Resistance?

The exact cause of insulin resistance is not well understood, but it is believed to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Some of the factors that may contribute to insulin resistance include:

  • Obesity: People with a high body mass index (BMI) are at an increased risk of developing insulin resistance, as excess fat cells can interfere with insulin’s ability to regulate glucose levels.
  • Lack of physical activity: Physical inactivity can lead to insulin resistance, as muscles require glucose as a source of energy and regular exercise helps improve insulin sensitivity.
  • High-fat diet: A diet high in saturated and trans fats has been linked to insulin resistance.
  • Age: As people age, their insulin sensitivity can decrease, increasing their risk of developing insulin resistance.
  • Family history: People with a family history of type 2 diabetes are at an increased risk of developing insulin resistance.

Signs and Symptoms of IR

One of the most common signs of insulin resistance is elevated blood sugar levels, particularly after eating (Mayo Clinic, 2021). Other symptoms can include:

  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Blurred vision
  • Slow-healing cuts and bruises
  • Dark, velvety patches of skin (acanthosis nigricans)

However, many people with insulin resistance have no symptoms at all, making it important to monitor blood sugar levels regularly to detect the condition early.

Can Insulin Resistance be reversed?

Yes! Here are some lifestyle changes that can help reverse insulin resistance:

  • Weight loss: Losing weight, especially abdominal fat, can improve insulin sensitivity and reduce the risk of insulin resistance.

  • Increased physical activity: Regular physical activity has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity most days of the week.
  • Healthy diet: Eating a healthy diet, low in refined carbohydrates and high in fibre, can help improve insulin sensitivity and reduce the risk of insulin resistance.
  • Adequate sleep: Getting enough sleep is important for overall health, including insulin sensitivity. Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night and establish a consistent sleep schedule.
  • Limit alcohol consumption: Alcohol can interfere with insulin sensitivity, so it’s important to limit alcohol intake to reduce the risk of insulin resistance.
  • Stop smoking: Smoking has been linked to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, so quitting smoking can help reduce the risk of these conditions.
  • Monitor blood sugar levels: Regular monitoring of blood sugar levels can help track the progress of insulin resistance and monitor the effectiveness of lifestyle changes.

The Bottom Line

In conclusion, insulin resistance is a common condition that affects many people around the world, especially those who are overweight or obese, physically inactive, or have a family history of diabetes. Insulin resistance can lead to a range of health problems, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and certain types of cancer. The good news is that insulin resistance can often be prevented or reversed through lifestyle changes, such as maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, and eating a balanced diet.

If you suspect that you may have insulin resistance and would like to know more about how you can reverse it, get in touch. I am a Certified Type 2 Diabetes Prevention Lifestyle Coach aka Prediabetes Coach. Lifestyle changes, followed consistently, are key to the process. I can teach you how to make the necessary nutrition and lifestyle changes that have been proven to work. I can help you set achievable goals and provide you with the support and motivation you need to make lasting changes to your health habits. With my help, you can take control of your health and reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Contact me today to learn more about how I can help you manage your prediabetes diagnosis and improve your overall health and wellbeing.