Insulin and Insulin Resistance: A Complete Guide

Insulin and Insulin Resistance: A Complete Guide

Insulin is a vital hormone that helps the body regulate blood sugar levels. When blood sugar levels become too high, in

Insulin is a vital hormone that helps the body regulate blood sugar levels. When blood sugar levels become too high, insulin helps the body cells absorb the sugar and use it for energy. When blood sugar levels become too low, insulin helps the body cells release the sugar into the bloodstream.

Insulin is a complex hormone that is produced in the pancreas, and its job is to move glucose (sugar) from the bloodstream into our cells so that it can be used for energy. Glucose comes mainly from carbohydrates in our food, but can also come from protein or fat.

Understanding how insulin works is important for people with diabetes because if they have too much sugar in their blood for too long (hyperglycemia), it can damage their bodies over time. If blood sugar is elevated for an extended period of time, a person may need more insulin overtime to bring the blood sugar down. This is called insulin resistance.  

insulin test

In this article, we will take a look at what insulin does, how your body can become resistant, the consequences of high blood sugar levels, and ways to treat insulin resistance.

What is Insulin?

Insulin is a hormone that helps the body use glucose for energy. It is produced in the pancreas and released into the blood when food is eaten. Insulin helps move sugar from the bloodstream into cells, where it can be used for energy.

Insulin is also important in the body's use of fats and proteins. When insulin levels are high, the body uses more glucose for energy and less fat and protein. When insulin levels are low, the body uses more fat and protein for energy.

Without insulin, the body cannot use glucose for energy. This can cause serious health problems, such as blindness, nerve damage, kidney disease, and heart attack. It is important to keep blood sugar levels under control by taking insulin and other medications as prescribed by a doctor.

How Does Insulin Work?

When you eat, your body breaks down the food into glucose (sugar). Glucose is a type of sugar that is used by the cells in your body for energy. Insulin helps move the glucose from your blood into your cells by attaching it to the glucose and helping it get into the cells. To do this, insulin has to attach to a receptor on the cell, and then the glucose can move in. This process happens in all of your cells, and it's important for the cells to get glucose for energy, otherwise, they may die.

what is insulin

Insulin works the same way in all of your cells. However, the amount of insulin that is needed to move glucose into a particular cell depends on how receptive that cell is to insulin. Muscle and liver cells are more responsive to insulin than fat cells, so they need less insulin to take up glucose. This means that people with type 2 diabetes have a problem with their muscle and liver cells not responding to insulin as well as they should. As a result, the glucose stays in the bloodstream instead of getting into the cells where it is needed for energy, which increases your blood glucose levels.

For individuals with diabetes, daily injections of insulin aim to mimic the body's natural response to food intake and maintain blood sugar levels within a healthy range. The way insulin works is by attaching itself to receptors on cells in the pancreas, muscles, liver, and fat tissues. There it allows for glucose uptake into these cells where it can be used for energy or stored until needed. By helping glucose move from the blood and into cells, insulin keeps blood sugar levels stable which is essential for good health.

What is Insulin Resistance?

Insulin resistance is a term used to describe when the body's cells stop responding to insulin as they should. This means that the pancreas has to produce more and more insulin in order for glucose to be taken up by the cells. Over time, this can lead to diabetes as too much sugar stays in the blood and the cells are not able to use it for energy.

There is some debate as to what exactly causes insulin resistance, but there are several possible factors including genetics, lifestyle choices, and environmental factors. Some of the most common risk factors for developing insulin resistance include being overweight or obese, having a family history of diabetes, being inactive, and having a high blood sugar level.

Insulin resistance is a serious condition that can lead to a number of health problems if left untreated. It is important for people who are at risk for insulin resistance to be aware of the signs and symptoms, so they can get treatment as soon as possible. 

Symptoms of Insulin Resistance Include:

  • Feeling very tired or exhausted, even after sleeping for a long time
  • Experiencing mood swings or being irritable more often than usual
  • Having trouble losing weight, no matter how much you diet and exercise 
  • Developing blurred vision 
  • Needing to go to the bathroom frequently, especially at nighttime 
  • Having a dry mouth and feeling thirsty all the time 
  • Experiencing heartburn or chest pain 
  • Having skin that is dry, itchy, or cracked 
  • Gaining weight quickly, especially around the belly

What Causes Insulin Resistance?

There are a number of things that can cause insulin resistance. Some of the most common include:

  • Obesity or Being Overweight - Evidence suggests that weight loss, especially belly fat, can lower the chances of diabetes development. If you live a sedentary lifestyle, you are at high risk of developing diabetes.
  • Genetics - There is some evidence that insulin resistance may be passed down through families, as genetics may play a key role in insulin production.
  • Lack of Exercise and Physical Activity - Lack of exercise is a high risk factor that's linked to insulin resistance and kidney diseases, as well as abnormal cholesterol levels. To avoid insulin resistance, exercise regularly.
  • Age - as people get older, they may become more insulin resistant. Older individuals are at increased risk for cardiovascular disease and should see their doctors to monitor their hormone insulin and their insulin sensitivity.
  • Smoking - Smoking cigarettes has been linked to insulin resistance.
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) - PCOS in women is also linked to insulin resistance. Women with PCOS should be going to their doctor for a blood test often and monitoring their body weight.
  • Heart Disease - To improve insulin sensitivity, aerobic exercise is a good way to start. Obesity, uncontrolled diabetes, and prediabetes are all heart disease risk factors that can be improved with weight loss.
  • High Blood Pressure - Insulin resistance develops over time and can cause your blood pressure to rise. Left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to heart disease or stroke.

The risk factors of insulin resistance for prediabetes and diabetes are about the same, however, prediabetes can be reversed through diet and exercise before it turns into type 2 diabetes. If you have prediabetes, it is important to make the necessary lifestyle changes to prevent insulin resistance from progressing.

The most important thing for people who are at risk for insulin resistance is to make healthy lifestyle choices. This includes eating a balanced diet, getting regular exercise, and avoiding smoking and other unhealthy behaviors.

What Is the Difference Between Diabetes and Insulin Resistance?

There is a lot of overlap between diabetes and insulin resistance, but there are some key differences. With diabetes, the body does not produce enough insulin or the cells stop responding to it completely. This leads to high blood sugar levels and can cause a range of health problems if left untreated. 

Insulin resistance, on the other hand, is when the cells stop responding to insulin as they should. This means that the pancreas has to produce more and more insulin in order for glucose to be taken up by the cells. Over time, this can lead to diabetes as too much sugar stays in the blood and the cells are not able to use it for energy. 

However, insulin resistance does not always lead to diabetes. Many people who are insulin resistant never develop the disease. It is important to get checked by a doctor if you think you may be at risk for either condition so that you can receive proper treatment.

checked by a doctor

What Are the Consequences of Insulin Resistance?

If left untreated, insulin resistance can lead to a number of health problems, including:

  • Type 2 diabetes 
  • Heart disease 
  • High blood pressure 
  • Stroke 
  • Varicose veins 
  • Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) 
  • Sleep apnea 
  • Certain types of cancer, such as ovarian and breast cancer

Insulin resistance is a serious condition, and it is important to get treatment as soon as possible if you are experiencing any of the signs or symptoms. Many of the health problems associated with insulin resistance can be managed or even prevented with proper treatment, but only if diagnosed at an appropriate stage and managed with proper care.

Insulin Resistance Prevention

There are a few things that people can do to help prevent insulin resistance. Some of the most important include:

insulin resistance prevention

 

Maintaining a Healthy Weight - Your weight is a major factor in whether or not you will develop insulin resistance. If you are overweight or obese, losing even just a few pounds can help improve your sensitivity to insulin. To lose weight, try exercising and eating a healthier diet.

Exercising Regularly - Exercise and physical activity helps the body better respond to insulin and can also help with weight loss, as it burns calories, provides muscle mass, and improves overall health.

Eating a Healthy Diet - Eating nutritious foods helps the body to better respond to insulin and can also prevent weight gain. Choose complex carbs like whole grains over processed ones, lean protein sources instead of fatty meats, and plenty of fruits and vegetables. Having less processed red meats and choosing plant-based proteins may also be protective against insulin resistance.

Limiting Alcohol Intake - Too much alcohol can damage cells and increase the risk for insulin resistance. 

Quitting Smoking - Cigarette smoke contains toxins that can harm cells, including those in the pancreas, and increase the risk of developing insulin resistance.

Trying a Plant-Based Diet - Some studies have shown that a plant-based diet may help prevent insulin resistance and reverse type 2 diabetes, as well as help with blood sugar control.

Monitoring your Blood Glucose Level - Your blood glucose level is determined by your blood tests. Gestational diabetes insulin resistance leads to high blood sugar. Keeping track of your own blood glucose level will help you and your doctor determine if you have gestational diabetes, insulin resistance or some other problem with regulating blood sugar management.

Conclusion

When you are insulin resistant, your cells don't respond to the hormone as they should. This means that your pancreas has to produce more and more of it in order for glucose - or sugar - to be taken up by the cells. Over time, this can lead to diabetes and other health problems. It is important for people who are at risk of insulin resistance to be aware of the symptoms, so they can get treatment as soon as possible.

It is important for people who are at risk for insulin resistance to be aware of the signs and symptoms, so they can get treatment as soon as possible. There are many things you can do to help prevent insulin resistance, including maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, and limiting alcohol intake.


This article offers general information only and is not intended as medical or other professional advice. A healthcare provider should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While the information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed, and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Mednow or its affiliates.

Get Started

We recommend

Mednow receives Best Workplaces in Healthcare Honour

The pharmacy of the future is also among the Best Workplaces in Healthcare on the Great Place to Work 2022 list.

PillSmart makes organizing medication easy

What is PillSmart? It’s easy to use, hard to forget daily dose medication organizer available at no extra cost to Mednow customers.

Fitter, happier, more productive: How pharmacy helps employee mental health

Holistic pharmacy gives employees a place to turn before a mental health concern becomes a mental health crisis.