Insulin Resistance: A Silent Enemy
As you age, you may notice it gets harder to lose weight. You may also notice that you have less energy than you used to.
Age-related imbalances in hormones like testosterone, estrogen, and thyroid are a common underlying reason for these changes. But there’s another culprit that may be responsible for weight gain and lethargy.
We’re talking about insulin resistance. And this silent enemy is estimated to affect more than one in three American adults.
Keep reading to learn about what causes insulin resistance, signs that you may have it, and how to treat (or better yet avoid) insulin resistance.
What is Insulin Resistance?
Glucose is the fuel your body uses for energy. And insulin is the hormone that controls how glucose is stored and how it is used in your body.
When you eat food, your glucose level rises. In response to this rise in glucose, your pancreas releases insulin. Insulin’s primary job is to keep your glucose levels within an optimal range.
If blood glucose levels get too high, insulin instructs your body to store the excess in your liver and muscles (as glycogen) or in your fat cells. This stored energy becomes available if at any point your glucose level gets too low.
Insulin resistance happens when your body needs more insulin than normal to keep your blood glucose levels within an optimal range. Your body starts needing this extra insulin when the cells that remove glucose from your bloodstream stop responding to a normal supply of insulin, and therefore need more.
Left unaddressed, insulin resistance can eventually lead to pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes.
What Causes Insulin Resistance?
Several risk factors have been identified for insulin resistance. They include:
- Being overweight (especially weight that is carried around the stomach and hips)
- Insufficient exercise
- High LDL cholesterol
- High alcohol consumption
- Sleep apnea or chronic insomnia
- Low levels of estrogen or testosterone
All of the above are also risk factors for prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.
What Are the Warning Signs?
Unfortunately, there are very few warning signs when it comes to insulin resistance, or even pre-diabetes. According to the CDC, more than 85% of people with pre-diabetes are undiagnosed.
That said, there are some things you can watch for.
Not being able to lose weight, despite a healthy diet and adequate exercise, is one important warning sign for insulin resistance.
An elevated fasting insulin level is another. When your body isn’t responding well to a normal amount of insulin, your pancreas will try to compensate by producing more. This can be detected on a lab test.
Lab tests that can check for pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes include fasting glucose and hemoglobin A1c.
What You Should Do
To reduce your risk for becoming insulin resistant, consider taking these steps:
- Lose weight. If this is challenging, even when maintaining a healthy diet, consider intermittent fasting and/or keto dieting. Both can improve insulin sensitivity and make weight loss easier.
- Stop smoking and reduce alcohol consumption.
- Exercise regularly, and with sufficient intensity. Include cardiovascular exercise and resistance training. Exercise helps your muscles to absorb and use glucose more efficiently.
- Consider taking metformin two times per day. This prescription medication has a long history of effectively improving insulin sensitivity, while simultaneously providing antiaging benefits.
If you think you may already be insulin resistant, think of it as a warning sign. By taking the preventative steps described above, you can avoid pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes.
Want to learn more about how to avoid insulin resistance? Call us today at 800-859-7511 or use our convenient contact form to sign up for your free 30-minute consultation.