Insulin, a hormone that acts like a key, unlocks your cells so glucose from your blood can produce energy. When the process doesn’t work properly, glucose builds up in your blood, even when your body makes more insulin. Experts don’t really know why your cells stop responding, but when they do, it’s called insulin resistance.
Here’s what else you should know about insulin resistance:
- There may not be any symptoms. In fact, you could have the condition for years and not know it. People with severe insulin resistance sometimes develop dark patches of skin on their elbows, hands, necks, knees, and armpits.
- Your chances of becoming insulin resistant increase if you are overweight, lead a sedentary lifestyle, have high blood pressure, or smoke.
- Some ethnic groups, including African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders, are more likely to become resistant to insulin. If a parent, brother, or sister has type 2 diabetes, your risk is also higher. If your mother had diabetes while she was pregnant with you (also known as gestational diabetes), your risk increases.
- Having heart disease, low levels of HDL (good) cholesterol, high triglycerides in your blood, or a previous stroke can also increase the likelihood of getting insulin resistance.
- The test for insulin resistance is complicated and uncomfortable. Instead, your doctor will probably test you for prediabetes, where the level of glucose in your blood after you haven’t eaten for a while is checked. Numbers that are higher than normal suggest you’re insulin resistant.
- Your pancreas has to work overtime to keep cranking out the extra insulin necessary to get glucose to your body’s cells. This is taxing, and eventually, the cells that make insulin can burn out, leading to prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. If you catch insulin resistance early and make changes to your lifestyle, you might be able to stop the process.
- You’ll need to change your eating habits. Cut back on sweets, salt, refined grains, and animal fats. Eat lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. This helps your cells use insulin better, especially if you drop a few pounds when you change your diet.
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Tune in to Black Enterprise’sÂ Your Diabetes Self-Care Package series as we celebrate health and wellness this National Diabetes Awareness Month.Â