Insulin resistance occurs when the body is producing insulin nicely, but body tissues respond abnormally to it. Insulin is a hormone originating in the pancreas, that controls glucose (sugar) level in the body.
Food breaks down into glucose in the digestive system. It's released into the bloodstream, flowing to every cell in the body.
When blood glucose levels rise after eating, the pancreas releases insulin to help cells make use of the glucose. But insulin resistance keeps fat, liver and muscle cells from getting the full benefit of this process.
The strategy next undertaken by the pancreas is to step up the amount of insulin it produces in an attempt to maintain healthy blood glucose levels. If insulin resistance worsens, the pancreas will eventually fall behind in providing the body's requirements of insulin.
The bloodstream will accumulate excess glucose. That glucose can't be used by the body for energy and is instead stored as fat.
The path then is set for the development of abnormal triglycerides, type-2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), obesity, polycystic ovary syndrome, syndrome X (glucose intolerance), and possibly dementia like Alzheimer's disease.
Not a pretty picture. And not the sort of time bomb you want to have ticking away inside of you.
How can you tell if you may be incubating insulin resistance and its subsequent erosion of health? Here are some things to watch for.
If you're overweight, with fat amassing around your middle, if you have a family history of diabetes or gestational diabetes during pregnancy, you're at risk for insulin resistance.
If you have high blood pressure or polycystic ovary syndrome, or a skin condition called acanthosis nigricans (darkened, velvety skin at neck, armpits and under the breasts), or are on diuretics, anti-hypertensives or steroids, insulin resistance is a real possibility.
Even if you're already experiencing health decline from insulin resistance, you can regain some control by making some adjustments to your diet.