You’ve probably heard about insulin — especially if you have diabetes. But what exactly is this substance and how does it affect your body?
Your pancreas, a gland located in the abdomen, produces the hormone insulin. One of this hormone’s primary roles is to control blood glucose (blood sugar) levels to prevent hyperglycemia. Insulin is also important to fat synthesis and enzyme regulation.
A healthy body regulates insulin precisely, thus allowing the body’s metabolism to be balanced. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with diabetes or pre diabetes, you’re probably wondering exactly what the role of insulin is in the body.
Here’s some answers offered by the health care team at South Plains Rural Health Services.
Why is insulin so important?
Insulin helps shuttle glucose (blood sugar) into your muscle, fat, and liver cells. Glucose enters your body from the foods you eat. Once insulin moves into your cells, your blood sugar returns to normal.
Glucose is energy for your cells; excess glucose can be converted to fat. Insulin modifies the activity of specific enzymes that impact protein synthesis. Insulin also plays a role in building muscle following sickness or injury.
Insulin helps make healthy changes in fat cells. It is also important to the absorption of amino acids and potassium. The hormone manages the excretion of sodium and fluid volume in your urine.
Insulin also enhances your memory and learning capabilities.
What problems occur with insulin?
The best known problem with insulin is diabetes. With Type 1 diabetes, your body doesn’t secrete enough (or any). Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder usually diagnosed in adolescence or young adulthood.
Type 2 diabetes is diagnosed when your body no longer uses the insulin it secretes effectively. This form usually develops in adults and can be associated with lifestyle choices. You may still produce insulin, but not enough for your body’s needs.
With Type 2 diabetes, even if you do produce insulin, your body just doesn’t use it efficiently.
Another 96 million people have a condition called prediabetes. Prediabetes means you have high blood sugar levels, but not quite high enough for a Type 2 diabetes diagnosis. Without treatment, you are likely to develop Type 2 diabetes and are at increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
What happens when insulin doesn’t effectively control your blood sugar levels?
When insulin doesn’t effectively control your blood sugar levels, you may develop a number of symptoms.
Your cells don’t receive the sugar they need for energy, so you may feel tired and fatigued. The sugar remains in the bloodstream. When you have excess sugar in the bloodstream for a long period of time, it causes damage to the peripheral nervous system, kidneys, and eyes.
How do I know I have problems with insulin?
Symptoms of Type 1 diabetes are noticeable. You may lose weight, feel thirst, urinate often, and be fatigued. Type 2 diabetes develops more gradually and symptoms are more subtle. We can run an A1C blood test to check your insulin levels and a glucose test to check your glucose levels.
We may recommend these tests if you have characteristics associated with Type 2 diabetes, including fatigue, overweight or obesity, sedentary lifestyle, poor diet, and tingling in your hands and feet.
If you suspect you are struggling with insulin levels or production, reach out to South Plains Rural Health Services. Contact the office in Levelland, Lamesa, or Big Spring, Texas. Call today, or use the online tool to set up an appointment.