insulin resistance

When left unchecked, insulin resistance can lead to serious health issues. Insulin resistance is mainly linked to Type 2 diabetes, but it can also lead to cardiovascular problems like heart disease.

Here, we’ll explore what insulin resistance is, how it affects your heart, and why it’s important to regularly check your insulin levels to keep your heart healthy.

What is insulin resistance?

Insulin resistance occurs when cells in the body do not respond effectively to insulin; a hormone produced by the pancreas that regulates blood sugar levels. When insulin resistance develops, more insulin is needed to drive glucose into cells to be used for energy.

Over time, this demand can overwhelm the pancreas, leading to higher blood sugar levels and the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Insulin resistance is a key component of metabolic syndrome, a cluster of risk factors including:

  • High blood pressure
  • Abnormal cholesterol levels
  • Increased body fat around the waist
  • High blood sugar

Insulin resistance doesn’t develop overnight, but rather through years of poor lifestyle choices, such as a diet high in processed foods and sugars, lack of physical activity, and excessive weight gain, particularly around the abdomen. It affects every cell in the body, including your bone, brain, muscle and skin cells.

It often progresses silently, with no obvious symptoms until significant metabolic disturbances have occurred.

How insulin resistance affects heart health

Insulin resistance disrupts the normal metabolism of fats and sugars, leading to an increase in blood lipid levels. This includes triglycerides and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, often referred to as bad cholesterol.

These changes promote the development of atherosclerosis, the buildup of fatty plaques inside the arteries. This can reduce or block blood flow to the heart, leading to angina or a heart attack. Insulin resistance can also lead to chronic inflammation, a critical factor in the development of cardiovascular disease.

It often coexists with other cardiovascular risk factors such as hypertension (high blood pressure), obesity, and glucose intolerance. High blood sugar levels can damage blood vessels and nerves that control the heart, leading to cardiovascular complications.

Monitoring your insulin levels

Regularly monitoring insulin levels is crucial for heart health. It allows for the early detection and management of insulin resistance before it progresses to more severe conditions like Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

However, despite the known links between insulin resistance and heart health, routine monitoring of insulin levels for cardiovascular risk assessment is not commonly practised and diagnosis of insulin resistance is usually delayed for years, often decades by relying solely on glucose or HbA1c levels. Sadly this means delaying detection and losing valuable time. Reversing the condition is so much easier when diagnosed early on.

Dr Konrad Grosser is probably the only cardiologist in the UK, who routinely checks insulin levels – fasting and/or after a test meal. This allows for early diagnosis enabling implementation of early treatment strategies to reverse it and get your metabolic health back into balance.

This proactive approach leads to better detection and allows better management with the ultimate aim to restore health rather than managing a symptom.

Recognising and addressing insulin resistance early will lead to significant health benefits, including reducing cardiovascular risks. For more details call 0333 444 1844 and contact Dr Grosser’s team to arrange a consultation.