WHAT CAUSES INSULIN RESISTANCE?

Although the exact causes of insulin resistance are not completely understood, scientists think the major contributors to insulin resistance are excess weight and physical inactivity.

PHYSICAL INACTIVITY

Many studies have shown that physical inactivity is associated with insulin resistance, often leading to type 2 diabetes. In the body, more glucose is used by muscle than other tissues. Normally, active muscles burn their stored glucose for energy and refill their reserves with glucose taken from the bloodstream, keeping blood glucose levels in balance.

Studies show that after exercising, muscles become more sensitive to insulin, reversing insulin resistance and lowering blood glucose levels. Exercise also helps muscles absorb more glucose without the need for insulin. The more muscle a body has, the more glucose it can burn to control blood glucose levels.

OTHER CAUSES

Other causes of insulin resistance may include ethnicity; certain diseases; hormones; steroid use; some medications; older age; sleep problems, especially sleep apnea; and cigarette smoking.

DOES SLEEP MATTER?

Yes. Studies show that untreated sleep problems, especially sleep apnea, can increase the risk of obesity, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes. Night shift workers may also be at increased risk for these problems. Sleep apnea is a common disorder in which a person’s breathing is interrupted during sleep. People may often move out of deep sleep and into light sleep when their breathing pauses or becomes shallow. This results in poor sleep quality that causes problem sleepiness, or excessive tiredness, during the day.

Many people aren’t aware of their symptoms and aren’t diagnosed. People who think they might have sleep problems should talk with their health care provider.

More information about sleep problems is available from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute at http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/resources/sleep .