You At Your Best

November 2021 • Beating the Betes

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We often hear the word "insulin" in reference to diabetes. But few people understand exactly what insulin is and how it works. The key to preventing or managing Type 2 diabetes is understanding the role of insulin in the body. When our bodies convert the food we eat into sugar and send that sugar into the bloodstream, insulin — a hormone secreted from the pancreas — goes into action to move the sugar from the bloodstream into our bodies' cells. "Insulin either directly or indirectly affects every cell in the body," says Rachel Kilpatrick, MD, an endocrinologist at Washington Regional Endocrinology Clinic in Fayetteville. When sugar enters the body's cells, it is either used as fuel for energy or stored for later use, she explains, so "think of insulin as a storage hormone helping the body to store fuel." When a person's body doesn't produce insulin, the condition is called Type 1 diabetes. If a person's body makes insulin but is unable to use it properly, however, it is called Type 2 diabetes. All people with Type 1 diabetes and some people with Type 2 diabetes need man-made insulin to help control their blood sugar. Insulin is typically administered under the skin with a syringe and needle, an insulin pen or a small, computerized pump. Maintaining insulin levels is a delicate balance. Sometimes things go awry, and the body stops responding to insulin. "Insulin resistance is an impaired response to either insulin secreted from the pancreas or insulin that is administered," Dr. Kilpatrick says. "With this, there is reduced ability to transport sugar from the bloodstream into the body's cells, and the result is that the pancreas has to release higher amounts of insulin to do this job." Overloaded cells eventually stop responding to the excess insulin and become resistant to it. The exact cause of insulin resistance is unknown, but may include: • Sugar in foods we eat • Overnutrition, or eating more food than we need • Obesity "There are a number of possible causes, but if a hormone is constantly stimulated, eventually the receptors for that hormone downregulate, causing resistance. If the right situation is present — for instance, genetics, age, sedentary lifestyle — and with the constant intake of sugar we find in our diets, there is increased insulin resistance," Dr. Kilpatrick says, adding that this can cause obesity and the development or worsening of Type 2 diabetes. The opposite of insulin resistance is insulin sensitivity — when cells are more effective at absorbing blood sugar and therefore don't need to overproduce insulin. Taking these steps can help improve insulin sensitivity: • Being physically active at least 30 minutes each day • Maintaining a healthy weight • Eating a balanced diet to avoid high blood sugar levels • Managing stress • Getting healthy sleep "High insulin levels due to insulin resistance can make it harder to lose weight," Dr. Kilpatrick says. "However, insulin resistance often improves when a person loses as little as 10 pounds. Even small changes can make a difference." In addition to caring for patients with diabetes, Washington Regional Endocrinology Clinic also offers Diabetes Education to help people with Type 1, Type 2 and gestational diabetes manage their condition. For more information, visit or call 479-404-1140. Washington Regional Endocrinology Clinic offers quality care for patients throughout Northwest Arkansas. Lauren Hawkins, M.D., C. Rachel Kilpatrick, M.D. and Ravonne John, APRN, provide diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the endocrine glands. Washington Regional Endocrinology Clinic provides evaluation, management and custom treatment plans for many conditions, including diabetes, thyroid, bone, adrenal and pituitary diseases along with other hormone conditions. The clinic also offers a diabetes education program with certified diabetes educators to help people make lifestyle changes to best manage diabetes. Learn more by calling the Washington Regional Endocrinology Clinic at 479-404-1140 or visit washington regional endocrinology Clinic DiAbetes preveNtioN Understanding the role of insulin spoNsor CoNteNt suNDAy, oCtober 31, 2021 | November - beAt the betes youAtyourbest.NWAoNliNe.Com | you At your best | 9

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