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What is insulin resistance? A simple explanation that makes sense.

If you’ve just been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, you may have been told that you are insulin resistant. Here are the 5 common symptoms of diabetes. But what is insulin resistance, and what should you do about it?

Insulin resistance explained

Insulin resistance is when your body does not use the insulin in your body as well as it should. This leads to high blood sugar, and can lead to Type 2 diabetes.

The first thing to understand is what insulin does when there is no insulin resistance. When you eat, your body releases insulin from your pancreas. This insulin helps to unlock the cells so that the glucose (sugar) from the food you have eaten is able to pass from the blood into the cells, for energy. If you are insulin resistant, there is a block so that the insulin cannot pass as easily from the blood into the cells. The insulin ‘key’ doesn’t work as well as it should – which means your blood glucose stays higher than it should.

insulin resistance

Why does insulin resistance matter?

You can think of insulin resistance as a warning sign of Type 2 diabetes. Although there are often no symptoms, it can be a sign that you are at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Here are the risk factors of Type 2 diabetes (in a 1 minute video!)

Insulin resistance is when the insulin in your body doesn’t work as it should. Type 2 diabetes often combines insulin resistance with a lack of insulin, so that the glucose from your food can’t feed the cells correctly. Type 2 diabetes can be managed, often with losing weight and exercising, along with a change in diet. Here are some helpful tips for managing Type 2 diabetes.

What to do if you are insulin resistant

So what should you do if you’ve been told you are insulin resistant? First of all, thank your lucky stars you have been told now, and not when it has already developed into Type 2 diabetes!

Then, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I need to lose weight? Carrying extra weight (especially around your tummy) can lead to insulin resistance. Lose weight if you need to – here are some healthy weight loss tips.
  • Am I eating a healthy diet? Eating too many refined carbs (starch, sweets, baked treats, junk food and fizzy drinks) can be another risk factor. Here’s a balanced meal plan if you need some advice on how to eat well – controlling how much you eat (portion control) is so important!
  • Am I exercising enough? Exercise doesn’t have to mean going to the gym – it can be going for a walk around the block or doing stretching exercises at home or at work. But we should all be getting active for 30 minutes 5 days a week.

Now that you understand insulin resistance, do you need to make any lifestyle changes? Remember to join Diabetic South Africans for support from other people living with diabetes (of all kinds!) in South Africa.

What to read next?

Take your diabetes medication: All the most helpful medication tips from the experts.

Eat healthy for diabetes: The one article you need to read about diabetes and diet.

Exercise, a little every day: Your ultimate guide to exercise with diabetes.

Lose weight, if you need to: All the most helpful weight loss tips for diabetics.

Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

What to read next
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  1. Morry motsoetla Morry motsoetla

    This simply means we’re in danger of corona virus,as we have diabetes

  2. Colleen St Claire Colleen St Claire

    I am hypoglycemic, and I think i manage that, well.
    I stay alone, and seldom go out if ever,
    I trust that I have a lower chance of catching this Virus.?

    • It sounds like you’re being very careful, Colleen! Research has now shown that it’s not that diabetics have a greater risk of catching coronavirus, but that if we do catch it it’s more likely to be the serious type… But if you keep taking precautions like you are, I’m sure you’ll be fine!

  3. […] Excess fat, especially around the tummy (if you have a tummy ‘roll’ of fat) often leads to Type 2 diabetes. Why? Because that fat builds up deep in the abdomen and raises the risk of insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is often a big part of Type 2 diabetes. Here’s a helpful article that explains insulin resistance. […]

  4. […] Diabetes is a condition where the amount of glucose (sugar) in your blood is too high because your body can’t use it properly. In Type 2 diabetes this happens because your pancreas doesn’t produce enough nsulin, and/or the insulin that is produced does not work correctly (called insulin resistance). Insulin is produced by the pancreas to help the glucose enter the body or muscle cells. Here’s what you need to know about insulin resistance. […]

  5. […] as a disease in the traditional sense of the word – a chronic medical condition characterised by insulin resistance and relative insulin deficiency that results in raised glucose levels, and we frame that disease in […]

  6. […] goes too high, then you make more insulin, then it goes too low again, and after a while you become resistant to the insulin that you make, so you have to make even more insulin. Now it takes even longer to lower your blood sugar, so […]

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Sweet Life is a registered NPO/PBO (220-984) with a single goal: to improve diabetes in South Africa. We are funded by sponsorships and donations from aligned companies and organisations who believe in our work. We only share information that we believe benefits our community. While some of this information is linked to specific brands, it is not an official endorsement of that brand. We believe in empowering people with diabetes to make the best decisions they can, to live a healthy, happy life with diabetes.