What Is Insulin Resistance?
According to Joslin Diabetes Center, the definition of insulin resistance is, “The person's body may not be producing enough insulin to meet their needs, so some glucose can't get into the cells. Glucose remains in the bloodstream, causing high blood glucose levels.
"In many cases, the person may be producing more insulin than one might reasonably expect that person to need to convert the amount of food they've eaten at a meal into energy. Their pancreas is working overtime to produce more insulin because the body's cells are resistant to the effects of insulin.
"Basically the cells, despite the presence of insulin in the bloodstream, don't become unlocked and don't let enough of the glucose in the blood into the cells.”
Although this is a lengthy definition, it fully encompasses what is going on in the body. And unfortunately, it occurs very frequently with people who have type 2 diabetes.
Remember how we discussed various “natural” treatments for type 2 diabetes? One of those treatments – exercise – is one of the best ways to counter insulin resistance. Activity appears to improve the body’s ability to utilize insulin, thereby reducing insulin resistance.
Complications of Type 2 Diabetes
There is a myriad of complications that can occur with type 2 diabetes. Most occur as a result of untreated or undertreated blood glucose levels – meaning that the disease went undiagnosed, or that you did not take proper care of yourself.
Complications of diabetes tend to occur when blood glucose levels run high for extended periods of time. This causes damage to various parts of the body.
Complications can be prevented by controlling blood glucose levels – taking insulin as prescribed, eating healthfully, getting exercise, and taking any oral and/or injectable medication as prescribed.
Possible complications include:
- Neuropathy, which occurs most often in the lower extremities. When the blood vessels that feed the nerves become damaged, numbness, tingling, burning, and pain can develop – and this is called neuropathy. Eventually, this can even progress to an inability to feel the affected limbs. Sometimes, neuropathy can cause also affect internal organs, such as the stomach, and affect digestion (gastroparesis) and the penis (erectile dysfunction).
- Heart and blood vessels can become affected – and not necessarily just when blood glucose levels are elevated! Having diabetes increases the risk of cardiovascular problems in general. This includes hypertension, heart attack, stroke, angina, and atherosclerosis.
- Nephropathy is an irreversible condition of the kidneys that is caused by elevated blood glucose levels.
- Diabetic retinopathy is an eye condition that is caused by elevated blood glucose levels. Diabetes can also contribute to cataracts and glaucoma.
- Skin conditions such as bacterial and fungal problems are more likely to occur if your blood glucose levels are elevated. Also, coupled with nerve damage and the lesser likelihood to heal because of elevated blood glucose levels, you may have serious skin infections of the feet that could potentially lead to amputations.
Type 2 Diabetes Prognosis
According to Epocrates Online, “When diabetes is diagnosed at age 40, men lose an average of 5.8 years of life, and women lose an average of 6.8 years of life. The overall excess mortality in those with type 2 diabetes is around 15% higher, but ranges from ≥60% higher in younger adults with poor glucose control and renal function, to better than those without diabetes for those who are age 65 and over with good glucose control and no renal impairment.”
Note in the quotation above that those adults with mortality improve with good glucose control.
It is difficult to predict mortality (and thus, prognosis) in a highly variable chronic disease. Why? Because much depends on the person who is taking control of their condition.
Although diabetes may increase the likelihood of developing certain other conditions, such as heart attack and stroke, mitigating these risks by adopting other behaviors, such as smoking cessation, weight loss, exercising, and controlling glucose levels all can improve prognosis.