Understanding Insulin Resistance in Women’s Health

Insulin Resistance
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What is Insulin Resistance?

Diabetes mellitus, or type 2 diabetes, is a chronic metabolic condition in which the body does not use insulin efficiently. The first stage of type 2 diabetes is insulin resistance.

Insulin resistance is when muscle, fat, and liver cells become resistant to insulin and find it difficult to bring glucose into the cell. But the pancreas compensates for this by producing more insulin, which helps keep blood sugar levels within normal range.

Before understanding insulin resistance symptoms in females, we must know what insulin is!

Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that regulates blood sugar levels. The food that you eat is absorbed and broken down into sugars, which enter the bloodstream.

This signals the pancreas to release insulin. The primary goal of insulin is to act as a key that helps glucose enter the cells. When there is excess sugar in the blood, insulin signals the liver to convert it into fat and store it.

While this usually happens, the process can go haywire when excess sugar is in the blood. When the blood sugar levels are high, the pancreas produces lots of insulin to help transport this sugar to the body cells.

However, if the blood sugar levels remain high for a long time, the body cells stop responding to insulin. At this point, the cells have become resistant to insulin, or the body has developed insulin resistance.

But no need to press the alarm bells!

The good news is that Insulin resistance in females and males is reversible if identified and treated at this stage. There are several signs of insulin resistance in females, such as obesity, infertility and PCOS.

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In India, the social, cultural, behavioural and financial burdens are very high for women. Even if they don’t face these burdens, many Indian women prioritise their family’s health over theirs and neglect their own. This prevents them from getting timely attention and care to treat insulin resistance.

How is Insulin Resistance Expressed in Women Before Getting Diabetes?

Despite the casual take of women towards their health in countries like India, their bodies give certain indications of insulin resistance before they actually develop diabetes. Some of these include:

1) PCOS

PCOS or polycystic ovarian syndrome is one of the most common endocrine and metabolic disorders in women of reproductive age. Insulin resistance may be one of the many reasons for its development.

Women with PCOS are often insulin resistant and have a higher amount of male hormones, which disturb their menstrual cycle causing irregular periods.

2) Acne 

If you are wondering- “Is insulin resistance always PCOS?” it is not so! Another sign of possible insulin resistance in women is acne.

Acne is a chronic inflammatory skin condition. While there are several reasons why acne may develop, a rise in male hormones, insulin and insulin growth factor may have a role to play in acne development, making insulin resistance one of the many causes of its development.

3) Hirsutism

Hirsutism (a condition in women where they get excessive facial hair growth). Women with increased insulin levels may have PCOS and hirsutism, suggesting both conditions may be associated with insulin resistance. So, if you are developing excessive facial hair, consult your doctor to get it evaluated.

4) Infertility

Infertility in women is a complex condition, and there can be several causes for it. Insulin resistance might be one of the many causes of this condition. 

Does Diabetes Affect Women Differently?

Diabetes is more common in men than women. Infact, men are more likely to develop diabetes at a lower weight than women if they develop more weight around their abdomen. However, here’s an interesting fact: 

The diversities in culture, environment, lifestyle, social and economic factors affect the differences seen between men and women in the likelihood of developing diabetes, its development and clinical features. 

It is also interesting to note that male and female sex hormones affect metabolism and other bodily functions and influence the risk of developing heart conditions. Additionally, women have more stressors in life than men. At the same time, post-menopausal women are at a greater risk for heart disease, stroke and heart attacks than men.

Factors like educational level, occupation, income, lifestyle behaviour, social disparity, obesity, lack of sleep, lifestyle, and hormonal imbalances increase the risk of insulin resistance type 2 diabetes in women.

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What are the Risks for Women with Insulin Resistance?

When insulin resistance is not addressed in time, it can lead to several complications, such as:

Signs of Insulin Resistance

While it is a silent condition, insulin resistance signs in females include the development of 

  • Skin tags (Small pieces of skin that appear on different parts of the body, including the eyelids, arms, back, trunk, etc.)
  • Acanthosis Nigricans (blackening of the nape of the neck, underarms, thighs, etc. 

These signs can also be seen in males with insulin resistance.

How is Insulin Resistance Diagnosed?

Women showing signs of insulin resistance must get themselves tested for blood sugar, serum insulin level, triglycerides, LDL (bad cholesterol), and HDL (good cholesterol).

How to Prevent Insulin Resistance?

Insulin resistance is preventable, and addressing it in time can prevent it from progressing to prediabetes and diabetes. There are several ways to prevent insulin resistance, such as:

1) Diet

Eat a healthy, balanced diet rich in whole foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, lean proteins and healthy fats. Fibre-rich foods are a must in your diet as they slow down sugar absorption into the blood, preventing a rise in blood sugar levels.

At the same time, avoid the consumption of packaged and processed foods, sweets and sugary drinks like soft drinks and energy drinks.

2) Exercise

You must get at least 30 minutes of regular exercise most days of the week. Adding aerobic and strength-training exercises help reduce weight and reverse insulin resistance

3) Good sleep

Getting a minimum of 7-8 hours of sleep each night helps regulate hormones and prevents insulin resistance. Creating a sleep routine and minimising exposure to screened devices an hour before your sleep time is helpful.

4) Stress management

Stress affects your blood sugar levels. Practising meditation, deep breathing or yoga can help reduce stress and help you manage your blood sugar levels better.

5) Undergoing regular blood sugar monitoring

During pregnancy, childbirth, pre-menopause, and menopause may cause hormonal imbalance, which may increase a woman’s risk for insulin resistance. It is, therefore, recommended to undergo regular blood sugar monitoring.

Early diagnosis and treatment of insulin resistance can prevent prediabetes and diabetes and its complications, reducing the financial and psychological burden on the individual and their family.

FitterTake

Insulin resistance affects many women worldwide and can significantly affect their health. 

Several factors influence how diabetes impacts men and women, with the latter being disadvantaged due to many factors. 

Indian women should take a  more proactive approach to their health and make positive changes to their lifestyle – like healthy eating, good sleep, reducing stress, maintaining a healthy weight, and regular monitoring can prevent insulin resistance and the development of diabetes in the future.

If you are wondering where to start, you are just at the right place. We at Fitterfly offer various scientifically designed healthcare programs tailored to suit your lifestyle, needs and medical condition. Our Diabetes Management Program or Weight loss Program For Women have benefitted several people in India. 

Wish to know more? Sign up for our program or give us a missed call at 08069450746, and we will definitely get back to you.

- By Fitterfly Health-Team
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