Could you be insulin resistant?

Think insulin resistance, and terms such as glucose and prediabetic come to mind. But what does it mean? Moneybags journalist Danielle Van Wyk explores insulin resistance and the warning signs.

What is insulin resistance?

Insulin is a hormone secreted by your pancreas that enables your cells to turn glucose into energy.

Insulin resistance is categorised by your cells’ inefficiency to use insulin correctly. This means your cells may not be able to absorb glucose, which could result in a glucose or sugar buildup in your blood.

When your sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be classified as Type 2 Diabetes, you are normally diagnosed with prediabetes.

As the term suggests, this condition is a precursor to the dreaded silent killer that is diabetes. While it is not clear why some people develop insulin resistance, the common denominators are being overweight and an unhealthy lifestyle.

Why should you care?

If you do not have your blood sugar levels checked at regular intervals, insulin resistance can go undetected for years.

“Some people with insulin resistance may develop a skin condition known as acanthosis nigricans. Symptoms are dark patches on the back of the neck, as well as on the groin and armpits. Some experts believe it may be caused by a buildup of insulin within the skin cells. There’s no cure for acanthosis nigricans, but treatment may allow for some of your natural skin colour to return,” reports Healthline.

Other red flags may be high triglycerides (an abnormally high level of fat in the blood), high blood pressure and being overweight.

However, if you do not know what to look out for, you could miss the subtle warning signs and only wake up to the harsh facts when it is too late.

According to the Diabetes Association of South Africa (DASA) the symptoms of diabetes are:

  • Unusual thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Unusual weight loss
  • Extreme fatigue or lack of energy
  • Blurred vision
  • Frequent or recurring infections
  • Cuts and bruises that are slow to heal, boils and itching skin
  • Tingling and numbness in the hands or feet.

“However, many people who have Type 2 Diabetes may experience no symptoms,” DASA adds.

In this case, blood tests become vital in diagnosis.

There are a range of other tests that can be taken as well – such as an A1C test and a glucose tolerance test that diagnoses prediabetes and diabetes, or a fasting blood glucose test that determines the amount of glucose in your blood.

Ideally “testing for diabetes should begin at about age 40, along with the usual tests for cholesterol and other markers of health. You can get tested at your annual physical exam or undergo preventive screening with your doctor,” explains Healthline.

Preventing insulin resistance 

If you have a history of diabetes in your family, are overweight, or suffer from high blood pressure or high cholesterol – it is crucial that you have regular medical check-ups. However, the good news is that you could prevent this condition by simply improving your lifestyle.

“If you have prediabetes, you may be able to prevent diabetes by exercising 30 minutes at least 5 days a week and eating a balanced diet.

“Losing weight, even just 7 % of your body weight, can also lower your risk of developing diabetes. Making good lifestyle choices is the best way to get your blood glucose levels in the desired range. It is important to remember that a diagnosis of insulin resistance and prediabetes is a warning. You can often reverse this condition with healthy lifestyle changes,” Healthline highlights.