Understanding Insulin Resistance – The key conspirator

Don’t be scared about the highly technical terminology. I would make it easy for you to understand what it means and how to remain healthy.

Human body, though a very complex machine is not that difficult to understand. I have made it easy for you to understand in my earlier article –

Simplifying the most complex machine – human body

The body has an inbuilt mechanism to maintain energy balance. Any interference from our end leads to weight gain and the same is explained in another article –

Why am I putting on weight?

Role of Insulin

Glucose is the basic source of energy for every cell of the body. The glucose generated through digestion of carbohydrates in our food reaches cells via blood. Now at the level of cells for uptake of this glucose another component is required and that is insulin. Insulin is a hormone produced in our body by pancreas. This is an inbuilt check to ensure that glucose enters the cells only if required. The excessive glucose gets converted to fat and is stored as reserve largely in abdomen.


What is insulin resistance?

Insulin resistance is a condition in which though body has a sufficient amount of insulin it is not able to function properly. It means that for completing its task (which is uptake of glucose by cells), body would require larger amount of insulin. Its analogues to have incompetent people in an organization, you would need more people to complete the same task that can be done by fewer people.

What causes insulin resistance?

There are number of causes that lead to insulin resistance including genetic factors. A person with his first degree relatives having diseases like diabetes, heart disease etc would be at higher risk of having insulin resistance. Genetic factors are beyond our control.
Additionally there are number of other external factors that we can intervene with. Obesity specifically abdominal obesity is the biggest risk factor. There are number of scientific publications on this issue. I have proposed a simple marker to identify if you are having abdominal obesity – Index of central obesity. All this research papers can be accessed here.

The simple message from all this research is that limit your waist size to half of your height. If you are 5 feet 8 inches tall (68 inches), you should limit your waist size to 34 inches.

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How does insulin resistance harm you?

Insulin resistance is the key conspirator behind number of diseases. People with resistance would need more insulin in their blood for proper uptake of glucose. This would lead to burden on pancreas leading to deficiency of insulin which will lead to diabetes. Additionally high levels of insulin in blood lead to atherosclerosis (thickening on your blood vessels) which causes blockages in arteries. If the arteries supplying your heart are affected, you can get heart attack, if the arteries supplying brain are affected, it can lead to paralysis. High levels of insulin in blood also lead to cholesterol problems which further increase risk of atherosclerosis. Disease like kidney failure, gangrene etc are also largely due to atherosclerosis. This conglomeration of various risk factors is called metabolic syndrome.

How to prevent and treat insulin resistance?

The best way to prevent insulin resistance is controlling your tummy size – limit your waist size to half of your height.
Control your weight. The ideal weight can be simply calculated by subtracting 100 from your height in cm. If your height is 176 cm, the ideal weight for you is 76 kg.
Regular exercise is improves the sensitivity of insulin. Daily brisk walk of 45 minutes is ideally recommended, more the better.
One should take healthy diet with less of fat and high proteins. Simple carbohydrates (sweets) should be avoided.
Insulin resistance is treated by physicians using drugs like Metformin.

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Simply by understanding the basics of Insulin resistance, you can prevent or treat it before it causes deadly diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attack, paralysis etc. Control your weight, limit your waist size, have a healthy diet and exercise regularly, that’s the key to being healthy.

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