Insulin resistance affects over one-third of American adults. Many of those adults will go on to develop diabetes and a host of related conditions, including metabolic syndrome, which can lead to strokes, heart attacks, and other serious conditions.
Many people believe they will be able to tell when their blood sugar levels change, and they begin to develop insulin resistance. Unfortunately, most people don't develop any symptoms until insulin resistance has progressed to much more serious conditions. That's where insulin resistance tests come in.
This is because not only is insulin resistance manageable, but it can also be reversible. The key to reversing insulin resistance is catching it early. If you're able to do so before it becomes prediabetes or even Type 2 diabetes, you can take charge of your health and make informed decisions.
Read on to learn about insulin resistance, when most people begin to develop symptoms, and how you can get safe, secure, and reliable insulin resistance tests, even without health insurance.
What Is Insulin Resistance?
Insulin resistance is an extremely common condition. It occurs when your body's cells don't respond as well to the hormone and therefore don't use the glucose (sugar) from your blood as effectively. Your pancreas responds to the higher levels of glucose in your blood by producing more insulin.
About Insulin Resistance
While your body may be able to adjust for a while, insulin resistance can worsen over time. As more glucose builds up in your blood and your body produces even more insulin, your cells can become resistant to it. As insulin resistance progresses, it can lead to diabetes, hypoglycemia, and hyperglycemia.
Insulin resistance syndrome can also include a host of related conditions. In addition to diabetes, these include high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and obesity.
Insulin resistance is extremely common, and it frequently progresses to diabetes. The CDC estimates that over 1 in 3 adults in the United States are prediabetic, and over 10% of the adult population has diabetes.
Risk Factors for Insulin Resistance
Since insulin resistance is so common, most adults are at risk for developing it, especially as they age. Your doctor will likely recommend that you get tested for insulin resistance and diabetes at age 40, along with tests for other markers of health, even if you are not experiencing symptoms and have no other risk factors.
For younger adults, testing is advisable if you have any of these risk factors:
- Obesity, especially with a high percentage of belly fat
- Family history of diabetes
- Previous diagnosis of gestational diabetes
- Have other health conditions, such as sleep apnea, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), or nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
- Sedentary lifestyle
- High blood pressure
- Diet high in carbohydrates
- Are African-American, Latino, or Native American
Causes of Insulin Resistance
Researchers aren't entirely sure what causes insulin resistance. They believe that the link between weight gain, especially belly fat, and insulin resistance may result from chronic inflammation caused by hormones produced by belly fat.
Lack of physical activity can also be a cause of insulin resistance. Regular physical activity helps your body regulate your blood glucose levels.
While there is still a lot of research to be done, this information is enough to help you take charge of your health. If you know you have insulin resistance, you can make changes that may help you avoid progressing to prediabetes or diabetes.
Signs and Symptoms of Insulin Resistance
Since your body is working so hard to make up for insulin resistance, many people have few symptoms, especially at first. Even once symptoms begin to appear, it's impossible to tell if you have insulin resistance syndrome just based on how you feel.
There are, however, some signs and symptoms to watch out for:
- darkened skin, especially on the armpits, neck, and groin
- skin tags
- increased hunger or thirst
- cravings for sweet or salty foods
- frequent urination
- tingling in hands or feet
Many people, however, will not experience these symptoms until their insulin resistance has progressed to prediabetes or even diabetes. It would be best if you also kept a close eye on other signs that indicate a higher risk for insulin resistance syndrome, such as:
- a waistline over 40 inches in men and 35 inches in women
- high blood pressure
- high fasting glucose levels
- high triglyceride levels
The good news is that you can reverse insulin resistance with physical activity and weight loss, adjustments in diet, and other lifestyle changes. Testing for insulin resistance with Ulta Lab Tests can help you take control of your health and take preventative measures before insulin resistance progresses to more serious conditions.
Lab Tests for Insulin Resistance
No single test can determine whether you have developed insulin resistance with 100% accuracy. However, a few standard, non-invasive blood tests taken together can provide results on insulin resistance as well as other indicators of type 2 diabetes and related conditions. If you have many symptoms and/or risk factors for diabetes, your doctor may recommend more comprehensive blood panels or additional tests.
Two standard tests, insulin and glucose tests are frequently used to evaluate insulin resistance. There are also hemoglobin tests that show your average blood sugar levels over the last 2-3 months and help diagnose diabetes. Lipid panels and others can also provide more information about your overall health and possible insulin resistance or prediabetes.
There are three common types of glucose tests:
- Fasting glucose test - After fasting for at least 8 hours, this test measures your blood sugar.
- Oral glucose tolerance test - Just as with the fasting plasma glucose test, you'll fast for at least 8 hours and then take the test. You'll then drink a sugary solution. After another 2 hours, you'll retake the test to compare differences in blood sugar levels.
- Insulin response to glucose test - The insulin response to glucose infusion is helpful in evaluating patients with hypoglycemia and suspected insulin resistance.
These tests are very similar. Either can help you evaluate whether you have insulin resistance or other related blood sugar problems.
Hemoglobin A1C Tests
This test evaluates your average blood sugar levels over 2 to 3 months. This is especially useful if you show symptoms of prediabetes or diabetes and are often part of a full panel of tests to determine whether you have diabetes or are at risk of contracting diabetes soon.
Additional tests can be ordered to determine levels of insulin resistance and gather essential information could include:
Insulin testing: While results from a fasting test can vary, it's typical for people with severe insulin resistance to show elevated levels
hs-CRP testing: This can evaluate cardiac risk by looking at low levels of inflammation in the body. Insulin resistance can cause an increase in inflammation.
LDL-P testing: This measures the number of low-density lipoprotein particles in the body via lipoprotein sub-fractions testing. It's believed that certain types of LDL particles, such as small and dense particles, are linked to an increased risk for cardiovascular disease.
Insulin tolerance testing: Although this type of testing isn't common, it's one way to determine how sensitive to insulin a person is. The test is beneficial for people that are obese or suffering from PCOS. During the test, a person will receive an insulin infusion via an IV. From there, levels of insulin and glucose will be measured.
FAQ About Insulin Resistance and Insulin Resistance Tests
It can be overwhelming to realize that you may have insulin resistance and related conditions. And with so many tests available, it can be challenging to make sense of your options. Read on for helpful answers to frequently asked questions about insulin resistance and insulin resistance tests.
Won't I Start Feeling Bad if I Am Developing Insulin Resistance?
Not necessarily. While some people will begin to experience the symptoms listed above before their insulin resistance syndrome progresses, other people won't feel any different until they are prediabetic or even have full diabetes.
Your body is adept at compensating for insulin resistance, and your pancreas is working hard to make up for it. That's part of why you won't necessarily feel bad until you've progressed beyond insulin resistance.
If I Develop Insulin Resistance, Will I Definitely Get Diabetes?
No, the good news is that insulin resistance can be slowed, stopped, and even reversed. You might not even need medication. Many people can adjust their blood sugar levels and reverse insulin resistance with diet and lifestyle changes.
Some of the most important lifestyle changes that you can make now are quitting smoking, moderating your consumption of alcohol, exercising, and eating a balanced, healthy diet.
Just 30 minutes a day of moderate physical activity 5 days a week can make a huge difference. You don't have to run a marathon--even brisk walking can transform your body and help reverse insulin resistance.
A balanced diet, including lots of fruits and veggies, whole grains, lean meat, and other sources of protein, can also help. Studies have shown that losing just 5 to 7 percent of your body weight can help reduce your risk of getting diabetes.
Depending on the severity of your insulin resistance and other symptoms and risk factors, your doctor may prescribe a medication called metformin. This helps control your blood sugar.
Can't I Just Change My Lifestyle Without Getting Tested?
It certainly helps to make lifestyle improvements no matter what. However, while very common and potentially reversible, insulin resistance is also very dangerous. In addition to leading to type 2 diabetes, it and other related conditions can lead to severe complications if left untreated. These include stroke, heart attack, kidney disease, eye problems, Alzheimer's disease, and others.
The best thing you can do for your health is arm yourself with information, then consult with your doctor about your test results. The more you know about your condition, the better you can manage and even reverse your insulin resistance while also monitoring any possible complications.
What Is the Best Test for Me?
It depends on your concerns, symptoms, and the risk factors outlined above. Suppose you are in good health and don't have any risk factors for insulin resistance or diabetes but want to make sure that you aren't beginning to develop insulin resistance without being aware of it. In that case, a simple insulin resistance panel might be best.
This panel requires overnight fasting. It then uses a combination of markers to evaluate the insulin levels in your blood.
On the other hand, if you are experiencing worrisome symptoms, have a family history of diabetes, or are otherwise high-risk, you may be better served by a full Diabetes & Insulin Resistance panel. These panels include all of the tests mentioned above, as well as a few others, and also require fasting overnight.
Is My Information Safe?
Absolutely. Your results will be available in your secure web portal. No one else will have access to your information unless the release of test results is ordered by law.
Do I Need Health Insurance or a Physician Referral?
We don't require a referral from a doctor, and we offer the same low prices to everyone, with or without health insurance.
What You Can Do Next
Insulin resistance, while very common, is a potentially harmful condition that can progress to prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. It can even lead to dangerous or fatal events, like a heart attack or stroke.
However, the good news is that you can take your health into your own hands. Book simple, secure insulin resistance tests today, and get the information you need to make decisions about your health and lifestyle.