What is insulin?

insulin resistance: Your pancreas naturally produces insulin, a hormone that aids in the body’s use of sugar as fuel. The inability of your pancreas to produce or release the insulin required to regulate your blood sugar can result in diabetes if it doesn’t function as it should.

When you have diabetes, your body either doesn’t produce enough insulin or doesn’t use it correctly.

What is insulin resistance?

When your muscle, fat, and liver cells don’t react well to insulin and cannot readily absorb glucose from your blood, this condition is known as insuline resistance. Your pancreas produces more insulin to aid in getting glucose into your cells. Your blood glucose levels will remain within a healthy range as long as your pancreas can produce enough insulin to compensate for your cells’ inadequate insulin reaction.

Insulin molecule representing insulin resistance.
Image by stresshealthdoc from Pixabay

What are Prediabetes?

Prediabetes is a term used to describe blood glucose levels above average but not high enough to be classified as diabetes. People who already have insulin resistance or whose pancreatic beta cells are not producing enough insulin to maintain blood sugar levels within the normal range are more likely to develop prediabetes. Without enough insulin, extra glucose is retained in the circulation rather than being absorbed by the cells. You could eventually get type 2 diabetes.

Insulin molecule representing insulin resistance.
Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

Who does insulin resistance affect?

No one needs to have diabetes to experience insuline resistance, and it can be either temporary (short-term use of steroid medications produces insulin resistance, for example) or chronic. Excess body fat, particularly in the abdominal area, and a shortage of exercise are two leading causes of insulin resistance.

In most cases, people with type 2 diabetes and prediabetes exhibit some insuline resistance. Insuline resistance can also be a complication of type 1 diabetes.

How common is insulin resistance?

Measuring the prevalence of insulin resistance is challenging because there are no widely used tools to detect it, and there are no symptoms until it develops into prediabetes or type 2 diabetes. The quantity of cases is the most accurate indicator of prediabetes. In the US, more than 84 million people have prediabetes. About one in three individuals experience this.

What are the symptoms of insulin resistance?

You might not experience any symptoms if you have insuline resistance, but your pancreas can produce more insulin to maintain your blood sugar levels within the normal range.

However, over time, insulin-producing cells in your pancreas may stop working, and insuline resistance may increase. When your pancreas eventually runs out of insulin to combat the resistance, your blood sugar (hyperglycemia) rises, and you experience symptoms.

High blood sugar symptoms include:

  • Increased thirst.
  • Frequent urination (urination).
  • Increased appetite.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Headache.
  • Vaginal and skin infections.
  • Slow-healing cuts and bruises.

For many years, many individuals with prediabetes do not exhibit any symptoms. It is possible to conceal prediabetes until type 2 diabetes develops. The following signs and symptoms are sometimes present in individuals with prediabetes:

Acanthosis nigricans, also known as dark skin on the edges of your back and neck, is found there.

Body markings (small skin growths).

Alterations in the eyes can cause diabetic retinopathy.

You must visit your healthcare practitioner if you experience any of these symptoms.

What causes insulin resistance?

Researchers still have a lot to learn about the genesis of insulin resistance. They have so far discovered several markers that influence a person’s likelihood of developing insulin resistance. Additionally, insulin resistance is more common in older individuals.

Insulin resistance can occur to different degrees due to various factors and ailments. Insulin resistance is thought to be primarily caused by excess body fat, particularly in the abdominal region, and muscular inactivity.

How is insulin resistance treated?

The main form of therapy for insulin resistance is lifestyle modification because some of the causes of insulin resistance, such as genetics and aging, cannot be changed. Lifestyle changes include:

Eat a healthy diet:

 Your doctor or dietician may advise avoiding too many carbohydrates, which cause the body to produce too much insulin and unhealthy fats, sugar, red meat, and processed foods. Consume carbohydrates. Instead, they suggest a balanced diet with more fruits, veggies, whole grains, fish, and lean beef.

Physical Activities:

 Regular, moderate exercise helps improve muscle insulin sensitivity and boost glucose energy utilization. Training at an intermediate level can boost glucose uptake by at least 40% in a single session.

Extra weight loss:

 Your doctor may advise you to lose weight to address insulin resistance. According to one research, shedding 7% of your extra weight can delay the onset of type 2 diabetes by 58%.

These alterations in the way of living over time may:

  • Increase insulin sensitivity (reduce insulin resistance).
  • Lower your blood glucose levels.
  • Lower blood pressure.
  • Lower amounts of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and triglycerides.
  • Increase HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels.

You can develop a customized treatment strategy with the help of other healthcare professionals and your primary care physician, such as a nutritionist and endocrinologist.

How is insulin intolerance treated with medications?

Although no pharmaceuticals are available to address insulin resistance, your doctor may prescribe medications to treat other diseases. Examples include: 

  • Blood pressure medicine.
  • Metformin is used to treat diabetes.
  • Statins can help decrease LDL cholesterol.

What are the Risk Factors and Causes of Insulin Resistance?

Factors that can increase the chances of experiencing this condition include:

  • Obesity, particularly belly fat; 
  • inactivity; 
  • a high-carbohydrate diet; 
  • gestational diabetes; 
  • health conditions such as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and polycystic ovary syndrome; 
  • a family history of diabetes; 
  • smoking;
  • Ethnicity (it’s more likely if your ancestors are African, Latino, or Native American).
  • Age – it is more common after the age of 45
  • Hormonal problems such as Cushing’s syndrome and acromegaly 
  • Steroids, antipsychotics, and HIV medicines are examples of pharmaceuticals.
  • Sleep disorders such as sleep apnea

Testing and diagnosis of insulin resistance

A1C test

  • An A1C test can be used to detect pre-diabetes or diabetes. This test calculates the average level of sugar in your blood over the past two to three months.
  • A1C levels less than 5.7 percent are deemed normal.
  • An A1C of 5.7 to 6.4 percent is indicative of pre-diabetes.
  • An A1C of 6.5 percent or more is considered diabetic.

Later, your doctor may wish to confirm the test results. These figures may vary by 0.1 to 0.2 percent depending on the lab where your blood is obtained.

Fasting blood glucose test

A fasting blood glucose test will determine your fasting blood glucose level. This test would be performed after you had not eaten or drunk for at least 8 hours.

A high level may necessitate a follow-up test a few days later to confirm the result. If both tests reveal excessive blood glucose levels, your doctor may diagnose you with pre-diabetes or diabetes.

  • Typical fasting blood sugar levels are below 100 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL).
  • Pre-diabetes is indicated by levels between 100 and 125 mg/dL.
  • Diabetes is diagnosed when the level is 126 mg/dL or above.
  • Depending on the lab, the cutoff amounts might vary by up to 3 mg/dL points.

Glucose tolerance testing

A 2-hour glucose tolerance test might rule out prediabetes or diabetes. Before the trial, your blood glucose level will be determined. After that, you’ll be given a premeasured sugary drink, and your blood glucose level will be tested again after 2 hours.

  • After 2 hours, a blood sugar level of less than 140 mg/dL is average.
  • A blood sugar level of 140 mg/dL to 199 mg/dL is called prediabetes.
  • Diabetes is a blood sugar level of 200mg/dL or greater.
  • Blood draws at random
  • If you have substantial diabetic symptoms, you should have random blood sugar testing.

The American Diabetes Association (ADA), on the other hand, does not advocate random blood glucose testing for regular diabetes screening or detecting prediabetes.

How does insulin resistance lead to diabetes?

In prediabetes, the pancreas works overtime to produce enough insulin to overcome the body’s resistance and maintain blood sugar levels stable.

The pancreas loses its capacity to secrete insulin over time, which can contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes.

Insulin resistance is still a significant aspect of type 2 diabetes.

Prevention of Insulin Resistance

Making lifestyle changes may aid in reversing insulin resistance, allowing your body to respond correctly.

Lose weight. A 2019 study discovered that losing weight increased insulin responsiveness and normalized blood glucose levels. Focus on adopting long-term nutritious diets and physical activities. Do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity weekly exercise, such as brisk walking.

Choose activities that you find enjoyable; walking, riding, swimming, and sports are some examples. Even losing 10 to 15 pounds can help correct and avoid insulin resistance.

Consume a low-carbohydrate diet. Reducing your carbohydrate consumption may enhance glucose metabolism and decrease insulin resistance. Another study published in 2016 discovered that consuming three low-carb meals within 24 hours might lower post-meal insulin resistance by more than 30%. Participants in the study reduced their carbohydrate consumption to no more than 30% of their total meal calories. Although further research is needed to validate these findings, consuming a balanced diet with modest carbs and sweets may increase insulin utilization and reverse insulin resistance.

Change your medication with a doctor’s supervision.

If you take steroid medicine to manage pain and inflammation, you may develop insulin resistance. These medications cause the liver to produce excess glucose, raising the risk of steroid-induced diabetes. Lowering your dosage or gradually tapering off steroids may increase insulin sensitivity. Before making any changes to your medicine, consult with your doctor.

Insulin molecule representing insulin resistance.
Image by Martin Büdenbender from Pixabay

Quit smoking.

Quitting smoking may also help to reverse insulin resistance. A 2019 study found that smoking contributes to insulin resistance.

Get plenty of sleep.

 Adults require between seven and nine hours of sleep every night for optimal health, according to 2015 guidelines. Not getting enough sleep may raise your risk of diabetes or make it more challenging to manage. If you’re experiencing difficulties sleeping, consult your doctor. This might be an indication of a sleep issue.

Manage stress well. 

When stressed, your body creates more cortisol, a stress hormone. This hormone can make your muscles and cells resistant to insulin, resulting in greater blood sugar levels. As a result, persistent stress may raise your chances of developing prediabetes or type 2 diabetes.


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