If you have trouble losing weight and controlling your blood glucose levels, your healthcare provider may diagnose you with a condition called insulin resistance. This happens when your body cannot use insulin properly, causing your blood glucose levels to stay high. Insulin resistance is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes and heart disease, but it can be reversed with healthy lifestyle changes.
What is insulin?
Your body makes glucose from the food and drinks you consume, which it then sends to your blood. In a healthy person, the hormone insulin takes this glucose and puts it into your cells for energy.
But in someone who has insulin resistance, this process does not work as well as it should. Since your cells are not getting the energy they need, your body sends out more insulin, which makes the problem worse. Your blood glucose levels will rise and you might develop prediabetes or type 2 diabetes.
Almost anyone can get insulin resistance. If you are over 45, or have any of the following risk factors, your risk will be higher than it is for most people:
- Overweight or obesity
- PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome)
- A history of gestational (pregnancy) diabetes, and/or having had a baby that weighed more than 9lbs at birth
- High blood pressure, triglycerides and/or blood glucose levels
- Low HDL (“good”) cholesterol
- A close family member with type 2 diabetes
- African American, Hispanic, American Indian, Asian American or Pacific Island ancestry
You are not likely to feel any different if you have insulin resistance. This is why you should see your healthcare provider to check your blood glucose as soon as possible. He or she will be able to tell you if you have this condition.
Can you prevent or reverse insulin resistance?
Yes! The best way to do it is to lose weight. While this is often difficult for people with insulin resistance, the right food, exercise routine and stress reduction plan can go a long way towards getting your blood glucose levels back into the normal range. It’s best to see a dietitian or other healthcare provider to help you set a personalized plan. Until then, here are a few tips to get you started:
- Drink water instead of soda, energy drinks or juice.
- Bake, steam or grill your food instead of frying.
- Eat fewer calories by using smaller plates and bowls.
- Cut back on margarine, oils and mayonnaise.
- Get more physical activity around the house. For example, you can clean, garden, play with your pets or wash the car.
- Park farther away from your destination and walk, and take the stairs instead of the elevator whenever you can.
- Work up to 30 minutes of exercise, 5 days a week.
- Lift weights or try other strength-training exercises.
- Go to sleep early every night.
- Take time every day to do at least one relaxing activity, like a warm bath or light stretching.