Health Break | Published August 18, 2008 | Written by Amy Leffard, RN, diabetes educator

You Can Manage Insulin Resistance

Understanding your body and body processes are important to achieving and maintaining good health. Insulin resistance is a common condition, often occurring in diabetics. Understanding insulin resistance and the best way to deal with this process can help diabetics and others improve their health.

Q. What is insulin resistance? A. Insulin resistance is when the body has trouble using the insulin that it produces. This means blood sugars stay higher than they should.

Q. How do I know if I have insulin resistance? A. Usually persons with insulin resistance can describe their body shape as more apple than pear shape. Most people with insulin resistance have a large belly or a waist measurement that is greater than 35 inches for women and greater than 40 inches for men. Your physician can order a blood test those with insulin resistance may have high blood sugar levels, but sometimes not high enough to be diagnosed with diabetes.

Q. So you don't have to have diabetes to be insulin resistant? A. No. In fact many people have insulin resistance and are not diagnosed with diabetes… yet.

Q. What causes it? A. Being overweight, especially around the middle and lack of exercise play a big part in insulin resistance. Genetics also tend to play a role in who is insulin resistant.

Q. My doctor told me I am producing too much insulin, so how can I have this too? A. Your muscles, fat, and liver dont use insulin properly so your pancreas tries to keep up by making more and more insulin. We need insulin to help get sugar out of the blood and into the cells to use for energy.

Q. So how does this prevent me from losing weight? A. Excess weight indicates too much fat in the body and that limits the muscles ability to use insulin. Also when your body produces too much insulin and the insulin does not get used as it should to lower blood glucose levels- it is then stored as more fat and you will have trouble losing weight.

Q. I dont have to take insulin, just pills, so do I need to be concerned about this? A. Even if you dont take insulin, your body can be resistant and make it difficult to convert carbohydrates into energy the right way.

Q. So whether I have diabetes or not, I can have this and what can I do about it? A. The best treatment is to exercise and cut back on portion sizes if you are overweight. Diabetes medications can also help the body be less resistant, allowing your cells to use the insulin it is producing.

Q. What if I inject insulin, will these pills help me use that insulin better too? A. Yes. Whether the insulin is injected or made by your own body, exercise, losing weight, and taking these types of diabetes pills will help cells use insulin more effectively.

Q. Is there anything else about insulin resistance that I should know about? A. If you think you might have insulin resistance, discuss it with your physician to determine the best health plan for you. Together, you can determine the most effective strategy to improve the way your body uses improving your overall health potential.

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