After eating, food is first broken down by the digestive system. For a healthy person, the nutrients are then absorbed into the bloodstream in the form of sugars or glucose. These sugars as well as fat and other basic substances are then spread throughout the body. The increase in glucose in the blood sends a signal to the pancreas to increase the amount of insulin it produces. Insulin then attaches to the blood cells and removes the glucose so that the body can use the glucose for energy.
When a person is resistant to insulin, the body does not have the ability to respond effectively to the insulin hormone. To compensate for this, the pancreas will release even more insulin. Over time, people with this type of resistance develop what is known as diabetes. The high insulin level in the body is no longer able to compensate for the high level of sugar as well. There are several components to Insulin Resistance Syndrome, including:
- Impaired glucose tolerance or Type 2 Diabetes; this occurs because the pancreas is not able to produce enough insulin to overcome the body’s insulin resistance causing blood sugar levels to increase.
- High blood pressure; it is believed that the worse the person’s blood pressure, the worse the resistance is to insulin.
- Heart disease; insulin resistance can cause the hardening of the arteries, which puts a person at risk for blood clots and heart attack.
- Obesity; abdominal obesity is a major factor in insulin resistance. Obesity has a negative impact on the insulin response in a person.
- Abnormal cholesterol levels; an individual with insulin resistance will usually have low good cholesterol and high triglycerides.
- Kidney damage; protein in the urine is often a sign that kidney damage has occurred.
There is not a single test that can be used to determine insulin resistance. Although, those individuals with a family history of Type 2 diabetes are often at risk. Also at risk are those with a family history of heart disease, hypertension and obesity. Individuals who are members of specific ethnic groups, such as Native American, African-American and Latino are often at risk as well.
How to Treat Insulin Resistance
There are several drugs that are commonly used to treat insulin resistance when it occurs with Type 2 diabetes. Many of these drugs make the person sensitive to the insulin and may help to lower cholesterol as well as reduce hypertension. Additionally, monitoring weight gain and exercising on a regular basis can help to prevent the onset of insulin resistance.
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