Insulin resistance occurs when the body doesn't process insulin properly. Insulin is a hormone that helps control the amount of sugar in the blood. The body stops reacting normally to the effects of insulin, and so it needs more insulin in order to have the same response. A body may have normal blood glucose levels for years before this condition develops. The cells' resistance to insulin will continue to increase over time if nothing is done to stop it.
Is this a warning sign for the development of type 2 diabetes? People who are classified as "pre-diabetic" are normally insulin resistant, as are people with type 2 diabetes, so it is certainly a risk factor.
Who's at risk? Some risk factors include:
Unfortunately, there are usually no symptoms and people are often unaware that anything is amiss. A reluctance to visit a doctor regularly can also result in this condition being undiagnosed for long periods. A doctor can make a diagnosis by taking a patient history, evaluating risk factors, and doing blood tests.
"Treatment" is in the form of lifestyle changes. Changes in both diet and exercise may help to reduce or reverse insulin resistance and lower the risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Diet changes in particular center around carbohydrates. Carbs are broken up into sugars which are then absorbed by the body. Some types of carbs absorb faster than others. A food's effect on blood sugar is known as the glycemic index. Foods with a lower glycemic index are preferable as they provide a slower release of glucose into the blood.
Exercise has been shown to be particularly effective in improving the sensitivity of cells to insulin. Regular exercise is best. Once an exercise routine is established it becomes easier to maintain, and may help to get your body back on track.