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Insulin Resistance and Diabetes

If you have pre-diabetes or diabetes, chances are that you’ve heard of the medical term insulin resistance syndrome or metabolic syndrome. Insulin resistance or metabolic syndrome describes a combination of health problems that have a common link -- an increased risk of diabetes and early heart disease.

The cluster of medical conditions that make up the insulin resistance syndrome or metabolic syndrome places a person at risk of developing type 2 diabetes and atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). It is estimated that 34% of adult Americans have insulin resistance or metabolic syndrome.

Diseases or conditions associated with insulin resistance include the following:

  • Obesity
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Abnormal cholesterol levels
  • Heart disease
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome

 

What Is Insulin Resistance?

Normally, food is absorbed into the bloodstream in the form of sugars such as glucose and other basic substances. The increase in sugar in the bloodstream signals the pancreas (an organ located behind the stomach) to increase the secretion of a hormone called insulin. This hormone attaches to cells, removing sugar from the bloodstream so that it can be used for energy.

In insulin resistance, the body's cells have a diminished ability to respond to the action of the insulin hormone. To compensate for the insulin resistance, the pancreas secretes more insulin.

People with this syndrome have insulin resistance and high levels of insulin in the blood as a marker of the disease rather than a cause.

Over time people with insulin resistance can develop high sugars or diabetes as the high insulin levels can no longer compensate for elevated sugars.

What Are The Signs of Insulin Resistance Syndrome?

The signs of insulin resistance syndrome include:

  • Impaired fasting blood sugar, impaired glucose tolerance, or type 2 diabetes. This occurs because the pancreas is unable to turn out enough insulin to overcome the insulin resistance. Blood sugar levels rise and prediabetes or diabetes is diagnosed.
  • High blood pressure. The mechanism is unclear, but studies suggest that the worse the blood pressure, the worse the insulin resistance.
  • Abnormal cholesterol levels. The typical cholesterol levels of a person with insulin resistance are low HDL, or good cholesterol, and high levels of another blood fat called triglycerides.
  • Heart disease. The insulin resistance syndrome can result in atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and an increased risk of blood clots.
  • Obesity. A major factor in the development of insulin resistance syndrome is obesity -- especially abdominal obesity or belly fat. Obesity promotes insulin resistance and negatively impacts insulin responsiveness in a person. Weight loss can improve the body's ability to recognize and use insulin appropriately.
  • Kidney damage. Protein in the urine is a sign that kidney damage has occurred, although not everyone uses this component to define insulin resistant syndrome.

WebMD Medical Reference

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