7 Signs You Could Have Insulin Resistance
It is estimated that 25 percent of Americans have insulin resistance. Here are some potential signs of insulin resistance.
When your body can’t deal with blood glucose
When your body begins ignoring signals from the hormone insulin to process the glucose in your blood, you’re suffering from insulin resistance. This can result in blood sugar (glucose) levels that are too high, and over time, can lead to type 2 diabetes. Insulin resistance can also increase your risk of heart disease and other conditions, which is why doctors recommend you catch it—and treat it—as soon as possible. Blood glucose, which is toxic to the body, can cause permanent damage if the levels stay too high, for too long.
Keep in mind that the most common symptom of insulin resistance is no symptom at all. You can develop it without any obvious outward signs. That said, here are some things that can indicate you could have a problem with insulin resistance, or may develop one in the future.
Obesity, especially too much fat in the abdomen and around the organs is one of the main causes of insulin resistance, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Here’s why: “Abdominal fat, or fat around your waistline, has a more negative effect on your metabolism than fat that accumulates in other areas of the body,” says registered nurse Kellie Rodriguez, a certified diabetes educator and director of the Global Diabetes Program at Parkland Health & Hospital System in Dallas, Texas. “Abdominal fat increases your risk for type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, and heart disease. Therefore measuring your waistline is important–with a goal of fewer than 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men.”
But you don’t have to lose it all to improve your health: For people at high risk for diabetes, losing just 5 to 7 percent of your starting weight can help reduce your chance of developing the disease. (Avoid these worst habits for belly fat.)
Elevated blood sugar
Elevated blood sugar can translate to excessive thirst, lethargy, frequent urination, and more serious symptoms if left unchecked. People with insulin resistance may need to monitor their blood sugar and maintain a healthy eating pattern and use exercise and/or medication to keep their blood glucose in a healthy range. (These sneaky things can also raise your blood sugar.)
Large pores and acne
Sebum, the oil that lubricates the skin, is overproduced in those who suffer from insulin resistance syndrome. According to research, including a study published in 2016 in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, a diet rich in carbohydrates promotes this overproduction, causing acne. Eating more fresh vegetables and lean meats can help combat this and other insulin resistance symptoms. Here are some myths and truths you should know about large pores.
Polycystic ovarian syndrome
Many women who have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) also have insulin resistance. The condition is characterized by having high levels of male hormones, and an increased risk for irregular menstrual cycles, infertility, obesity, ovarian cysts, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. (Here are some symptoms of PCOS.)
Hair loss in women
In addition to fat storage and regulating sugar levels, insulin helps regulates hair growth. Women who suffer from insulin resistance may be prone to alopecia, or female pattern baldness, suggests research, including one study published in 2015 in the Australasian Journal of Dermatology. Women who lose more than the typical amount of hair per day, estimated at about 250 strands, should be checked for insulin resistance as this may be the root cause.
If you’re noticing swelling in your ankles or other parts of your body can be one of the many insulin resistance symptoms. Swelling tends to be indicative of insulin resistance, as insulin tells the kidneys when to hold on to sodium and water. When fluid is retained unnecessarily, swelling and bloating can result. Here are some other reasons you might be bloated—and when it could signal a health problem.
It may seem counterintuitive, but having insulin resistance means that while you have too much glucose in your blood, your body is unable to make use of that to convert to energy. That is why your body sends mixed signals to your brain and causes it to crave carbohydrates. So carb cravings may be an insulin resistance symptom.
The good news: Unlike other insulin-related conditions, insulin resistance can improve with lifestyle changes like getting plenty of physical activity and losing weight if you need to, Rodriguez suggests the following to help your body respond better to insulin. “Eat healthy, balanced meals; take medications, such as metformin if prescribed; and get plenty of sleep,” she says. You should also watch out for these type 2 diabetes symptoms you might be missing.
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: “Insulin Resistance & Prediabetes.”
- Kellie Rodriguez, registered nurse, certified diabetes educator, and director of the Global Diabetes Program at Parkland Health & Hospital System, Dallas.
- Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, “Dietary Glycemic Factors, Insulin Resistance, and Adiponectin Levels in Acne Vulgaris.”
- Australasian Journal of Dermatology, “The Association of Androgenetic Alopecia and Insulin Resistance is Independent of Hyperandrogenemia: A Case‐Control Study”