Metabolic Health

Insulin Resistance

Reviewed by

Shifa Fathima

In patients who have developed insulin resistance, their organs stop responding to the insulin. These are mainly muscles, fats and the liver. Insulin resistance is very likely to cause diabetes in a person. This is so because insulin is unable to perform its function. The function of insulin is to lower the blood sugar level by converting glucose to glycogen. Since, during insulin resistance, the organs do not react to insulin, the blood sugar increases. Hence, it may develop diabetes.

What is Insulin Resistance?

Insulin resistance means when different organs of your body, especially the liver and muscle, and fat stop their insulin response. Moreover, you probably can not use the glucose in your blood to supply energy. Hence, in response to this rise in blood sugar, the pancreas synthesises more insulin. This is because insulin lowers the blood sugar level. So, in insulin resistance, the pancreas uses more insulin due to the rise in blood sugar. However, since the liver, muscle and fat exhibit insulin resistance, the blood sugar keeps rising. Many problems arise due to insulin resistance. These are obesity, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, among others. So, this section clears the insulin resistance meaning.

Symptoms of Insulin Resistance

Your feelings do not tell whether insulin resistance is present in a person. Similarly, you cannot tell the other symptoms of insulin resistance. These symptoms mainly come under insulin resistance syndrome. However, some signs of insulin resistance are given below-

  • Extraordinary thirst or extreme hunger
  • One feels like urinating more frequently.
  • The men have an increased waistline that is over forty inches. Similarly, the women have a waistline that is over thirty-five inches.
  • There is a general sensation of tingling in the hands or feet.
  • The person has an unusual blood pressure like 130/80
  • Also, there is a high blood sugar level 
  • The skin usually turns dark, patchy and velvety. This is a disorder known as acanthosis nigricans.
  • Moreover, there is a feeling of sluggishness and tiredness.

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Risk Factors and Causes of Insulin Resistance

If a person has some of these risk factors, they should go for a checkup of insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is a disease that can cause the onset of diabetes. Hence, one should be very cautious about it. Here are certain risk factors that point toward a checkup-

  • Having a very inactive life
  • Having low levels of good cholesterol or HDL and also having high levels of triglycerides
  • Having diabetes is a generational disease. If one of your parents or siblings has diabetes, you must go for a checkup.
  • Obesity is also a significant risk factor for insulin resistance
  • Presence of a fatty liver even if you do not consume alcohol.
  • If you develop diabetes during pregnancy, also known as gestational diabetes.
  • Moreover, the risk factor increases for people who have had a stroke.
  • Medication for HIV or others like steroids.
  • Presence of high blood pressure.
  • Smoking is also a risk factor
  • Insulin resistance is likely to occur in Latino, African or Latin American

Diagnosis and Tests for Insulin Resistance

To test insulin resistance, the following tests are recommended by the doctors.

1. Fasting Plasma Glucose Test

This test is used to measure the blood sugar level. It is usually performed after eight hours of your last meal. If there is a high level, it requires a second test after a few days.

  • Blood sugar under 100 mg/dl is normal
  • Sugar level between 100-125 is prediabetic
  • A blood sugar level equal to or more than 126 mg/dl is diabetic.

 2. Oral Glucose Tolerance Test

This test is for two hours. It is used to diagnose diabetes and prediabetes. Before drinking a sugary drink, the patient’s blood sugar is determined. Then a premeasured drink is given to the person. After two hours of drinking it, the test is again to check the glucose level.

  • A blood sugar level of less than 140 mg/dl is normal
  • The sugar level of 140-190 mg/dl is prediabetic
  • A blood sugar of more than 200 mg/dl is diabetic

3. Haemoglobin A1c Test

This test is done to see the average blood sugar level for the past 2-3 months.

  • An A1c below 5.7 percent is normal
  • Between 5.7-6.4 is prediabetic
  • Equal to more than 6.5 is diabetic

Before performing the test, the following questions may be asked.

  • You will be asked about your family history to know if someone else has had diabetes.
  • They will also measure your weight and blood pressure.

How does Insulin Resistance progress to Type 2 Diabetes?

In insulin resistance, a person’s pancreas functions to produce more insulin. So, initially, it may work and keep the blood sugar normal. However, over a period of time, the pancreas will not be able to perform this extra production of insulin. Hence, to keep the blood sugar normal, a person should keep exercising and maintain a healthy diet. However, if a person fails to do so, their blood sugar will increase considerably, causing diabetes. The following results of tests show that you are a prediabetic-

  • Fasting plasma glucose test- 100-125 mg/dl
  • Oral glucose tolerance test- 140-190 mg/dl
  • Haemoglobin A1c test- 5.7-6.5 per cent

However, if you cannot control this, the blood sugar level will rise even more and cause type 2 diabetes.

Prevention & Management

To reverse insulin resistance, the following treatment and preventions must be carried out:

  • Regular exercise should include a daily workout of at least thirty minutes. This workout can comprise moderate activities like brisk walking.
  • Intake of a healthy diet- A recommended diet to reduce insulin resistance must be taken. This can include healthy fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and many more.
  • Weight- Obesity is one of the main risk factors for insulin resistance. Hence, one must have a very conscious diet and maintain proper body weight.
  • Medications- The most commonly prescribed medicine for insulin resistance treatment is metformin—this can help keep a check on the blood sugar level of a person.


Insulin resistance is a condition in which the liver, muscles, and fats do not respond to the hormone- insulin. This causes the blood sugar level to rise. Hence, insulin resistance makes a person more likely to develop diabetes. This may also develop insulin resistance syndrome. Some symptoms of this medical condition are- obesity, inactive life, and raised blood sugar levels. So, one needs to take proper care of themselves by leading a healthy life. Insulin resistance treatment is also basically the maintenance of a proper and healthy lifestyle. Also read about the insulin for diabetes

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