Insulin resistance is a condition in which the body produces insulin, but does not use it properly.

Some causes of insulin resistance, like genetics, are out of your control. But there are two main causes of insulin resistance where you do have the power to make a difference — and even small improvements can help.

Normally, after consuming a meal, snack or beverage containing any form of sugar, your brain triggers the hormone insulin to be secreted from your pancreas and released right into your blood stream. There, it binds with the sugar and forces it to be taken up into your muscles, fat cells and liver, where it’s stored. But in the case of type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes, insulin is unable to perform these functions.

As a result, insulin pools — where else? — in your blood. And, as a result, extra blood sugar does, too. So now you have high insulin levels in your blood — a condition called hyper-insulinemia— coupled with high blood sugar — or hyper-glycemia — both of which are detrimental to your health.

High blood insulin contributes to artery disease and damage, weight gain and high triglycerides. High blood sugar levels cause the same thing plus damage to your small arteries and nervous system, as well as lowering immunity and your capacity to fight off infections.

Here are the two main causes of insulin resistance:

  1. Obesity and excess weight, especially around the belly area.
    A hormone called adiponectin, which helps the body be more sensitive to insulin, becomes less available with the rise of belly fat. The more belly fat, the less adiponectin and the higher insulin resistance.

  2. Physical inactivity. Sitting for prolonged periods causes a change to the insulin receptors, making them unable to bind to insulin and forcing the sugar to go to the fat and muscle cells.

Even small weight loss — five to seven pounds — and an increase in regular physical activity has shown to be of great benefit on insulin sensitivity. The more you do, the better things get.

Here’s how to start:

Small Actions of The Week

Raise your regular daily physical activity by taking the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator. Watch empty calories from beverages, juices, milk shakes, coffee and tea. Consume five to six cups of water and another one or two low or zero calorie beverages.

“Lifestyle Makeover for Diabetics and Pre-Diabetics”

Here’s an excerpt from “Lifestyle Makeover for Diabetics and Pre Diabetics:”

Lifestyle Makeover for Diabetics and Pre Diabetics
by George F. Tohme, Pharmacist

Impaired Glucose Tolerance or Prediabetes

Prediabetes is a condition in which glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes, namely at a range from 100 to 125 mg/dL on a fasting state (first thing in the morning before eating).

Typically, people in this category are overweight or obese. They are people who consume large amounts of junk food (nutrient-deficient food, loaded with sugars and unfavorable sources of fat such as animal fat, butter, margarine, and trans fatty acids that are found in the majority of packaged snacks) and have sedentary lifestyles. They also have high cholesterol and triglycerides and have low HDL (the good cholesterol).

Studies show that these people will eventually develop diabetes and other preventable chronic ailments such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and heart disease, unless they are identified early and start making favorable lifestyle choices.

Identifying Pre-Diabetics

If your blood fasting sugar is below 100 mg/dL, then you are not diabetic. If your fasting blood sugar level is between 100 and 125 mg/dL, then you are considered glucose intolerant and/or are suffering from a condition called prediabetes. This means that you are about to have full-blown diabetes unless you start making favorable lifestyle choices as recommended in Action Steps 4 and 5. If your fasting blood sugar, however, is 126 mg/dL and over on 2 separate readings then this is a diagnosis for diabetes.

Proper and early identification is a must. What you don’t know can indeed hurt you. Early detection allows you to take action before there are serious consequences. Immediate weight reduction, even as little as 5 to 7 pounds, can help you regain sugar control, reduce your blood pressure and cholesterol. You can lose these 5 to 7 pounds by making favorable food and activity choices, as recommended in Action Step 4. These wise choices can bring the situation under control.

If you have any combination of the following criteria, you should test for blood sugar at least once a year during a yearly doctor checkup:

  • People who are overweight or obese
  • People who are sedentary (couch potato)
  • Smokers
  • People with a family history of diabetes
  • Women with a history of gestational diabetes or who have given birth to babies over 9 pounds
  • People belonging to the following ethnic groups: African-Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, Asian-Americans, Pacific Islanders
  • People with high blood pressure
  • People with high cholesterol
  • People with heart disease
  • People who have symptoms of continuous thirst, and who experience frequent urination, fatigue, sudden vision problems, or numbness and/or tingling in the hands and feet.

I’d like to share a story. Ever since I started pharmaceutical practice in 1987, I tried, whenever possible, to become more involved with my patients. I didn’t want to just be a dispensing pharmacist. Through my constant communication with my patients, I realized that only a small minority were informed and took appropriate action to bring their condition under control. They lived happily after their decision to take that control. Unfortunately, the vast majority had the “I don’t care” or the “it is not going to happen to me” and “my health is someone else’s responsibility” type of attitude. They paid the ultimate price.

Diabetics who espoused the latter approach had the worst outcomes and eventually developed most of the diabetes complications just discussed. I was very impressed by the actions of some patients I counseled; some over 80 years old had diabetes but were persistent in their action to keep their condition under control from the moment of their initial diagnosis. They looked and felt good, and they enjoyed the ultimate quality of life. It can be done. You can live a long and healthy life despite being a diabetic, if you keep its complications in check by becoming more informed and by being proactive and employing the information you receive from this guide. That’s all it takes.

Through my work, I have also encountered young people with diabetes in their 20s, 30s, and 40s who either have been misinformed, are in denial, have given up, or do not want to take their condition seriously. They are overweight, smoke, and are inactive. These people act the way they do because they do not want to “feel” different than others and because they think that they have to be deprived of some foods and sweets for the rest of their lives. That’s old thinking; it is no longer the case! They are misinformed, and the good news is they can enjoy eating from all the food groups in a balanced fashion as will be discussed in Action Step 4. Any diabetic can lead a very normal and very active life, just like nondiabetics and without being deprived of any food. This guide will provide you with the necessary tools to achieve just that.

Now that you understand a little better your type of diabetes and realize that you can make a major difference to better your quality of life, consider this a call to action. If you want to have the blessing of a normal and a natural lifespan, then adopt and start implementing, now, the 5 Action Steps of this guide. You have already completed the first step, which is grasping a better understanding of diabetes and becoming more informed about your condition. Now, let us climb to the next Action Step.

What You Absolutely Must Know at a Glance from This Action Step

Understand your type of diabetes. It is absolutely crucial to check out the criteria for diagnosing diabetes so that all those who have diabetes and don’t know it can be identified and treated immediately. Once diagnosed, people can start implementing lifestyle changes to prevent deadly complications or start taking preventive actions to avoid full-blown diabetes.