Insulin resistance is an increasingly common problem in this country as people become less active and more overweight. Not only does it increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, but it’s a risk factor for heart disease as well. What are the risk factors for insulin resistance – and what exactly does it mean if you have it?
Basically, insulin resistance means your body doesn’t respond well enough to the insulin it produces, which forces the pancreas to pump out more. So, people with insulin resistance have high levels of insulin circulating in their bloodstream – which isn’t healthy.
Risk Factors for Insulin Resistance
This is a risk factor for insulin resistance you can’t control. The incidence goes up with age, and it’s more common after the age of forty – another reason why everyone should get a yearly checkup once they the big 4-0.
A Risk Factor for Insulin Resistance You Can Control: Being Inactive
You don’t have to run marathons to prevent insulin resistance but being a couch potato means you’re more at risk. Exercise boosts insulin sensitivity – and the more active you are the better. High-intensity exercise is better than low-intensity for boosting insulin sensitivity – but schedule a physical exam before pumping up the intensity of your exercise, especially if you’re over the age of 40 and have been sedentary for a while.
Certain Medical Conditions Cause Insulin Resistance Too
If you have high blood pressure, heart disease, fatty liver disease or polycystic ovary disease you’re at higher risk for insulin resistance. Also, a prior history of glucose intolerance is a risk factor for insulin resistance – and high glucose levels during pregnancy also boost the risk. If you have a high triglyceride level or a low HDL level you’re also more likely to have insulin resistance.
Another Risk Factor for Insulin Resistance You Can Control: Obesity
Adipose tissue releases fatty acids and protein chemicals called cytokines that contribute to insulin resistance. Fortunately, losing the excess fat tissue helps to correct this problem. If you’re obese, losing weight is one of the best things you can do to increase insulin sensitivity and ward off insulin resistance.
Risk Factors for Insulin Resistance: The Bottom Line?
As you can see, you can’t control every risk factor for insulin resistance, but there are many you can. Start by losing weight and being more active. Eliminate processed foods and eat lean sources of protein, vegetables, fruits and nuts. Substitute whole grains for refined carbohydrates to reduce the amount of insulin your pancreas has to pump out. And don’t forget to see your doctor for a physical.
E-medicine. “Insulin Resistance”
Diabetes Essentials. Fourth edition. 2009.
BMC Endocrine Disorders. 2009, 9:3