What Is Insulin Resistance And Who Is At Risk?

Insulin resistance affects 1 in 3 people in the United States, according to WebMD. It is often referred to as a metabolic disorder, a group of medical conditions that affect the body's metabolic processes. Knowing how metabolism works is crucial in order to fully understand the dynamics of insulin resistance. Metabolism involves the conversion of food into energy, the breakdown of molecules to release energy, and the synthesis of new molecules for use in cellular processes, which are all essential for maintaining the body's various functions.

The regulation of metabolism is a complex process and is controlled by several factors, including hormones. Hormones, such as insulin, help regulate glucose levels and other nutrients in the blood. At the same time, enzymes act as catalysts to speed up the chemical reactions involved in metabolism, as reported via Nemours KidsHealth. If your metabolism isn't working correctly, metabolic disorders like insulin resistance can arise.

What is insulin resistance? Who is at risk?

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, insulin resistance happens when the body's cells become less responsive to the hormone insulin, which is responsible for regulating blood sugar levels. When insulin resistance occurs, the body's cells cannot effectively use insulin to absorb glucose from the bloodstream, leading to high blood sugar levels.

There are several risk factors that can contribute to the development of insulin resistance, including genetics, obesity, and a sedentary lifestyle, per WebMD. People who smoke, have sleep apnea, eat a high-carbohydrate diet, and those with a family history of type 2 diabetes or other metabolic disorders may be more likely to develop insulin resistance. People who are overweight around the waistline, or who take steroids, antipsychotics, or HIV medications are also at a higher risk. If left untreated, insulin resistance can progress to type 2 diabetes.

Symptoms and treatment of insulin resistance

Insulin resistance does not have noticeable symptoms until it begins to increase your blood sugar levels. At that point, you may notice increased thirst and hunger, frequent urination, blurry vision, headaches, and skin wounds that are slow to heal.

Treatment for insulin resistance typically begins with implementing some lifestyle changes. Making dietary changes, such as reducing sugar and refined carbohydrates and increasing fiber intake, can help to improve insulin sensitivity and regulate blood sugar levels, according to WebMD. Eating more whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins like fish can help as well.

Regular exercise – around 30 minutes a day, at least five times a week – is also recommended. If you aren't used to working out, you can start by taking walks. Before starting any vigorous exercise, however, it's best to consult your doctor, who can advise on an appropriate treatment plan.