Understanding insulin resistance

Last reviewed: May 1, 2024

A 2021 study found that 40% of US adults between age 18 to 44 are insulin-resistant. Insulin resistance occurs when muscle, fat, and liver cells do not respond well to insulin and fail to take up glucose from your blood easily. As a result, your pancreas makes more insulin to help glucose enter your muscle cells. It is called hyperinsulinemia. In the long run, it leads to increased sugar levels in the blood.

Insulin resistance syndrome can cause plenty many problems like hypertension, obesity, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes. It could affect as many as one-third of the American population. It is also known as metabolic syndrome.

As there are no routine tests to check for insulin resistance and no visible symptoms until the syndrome turns into prediabetes or type 2 diabetes, it is important to understand this growing condition.

Effects of insulin resistance

The occurrence of insulin resistance leads to an increase in the production of insulin so your body can maintain healthy blood sugar levels. High levels of insulin can result in overweightedness, which worsens insulin resistance.

The following conditions also speak of the presence of hyperinsulinemia:

Insulin resistance is the major component of metabolic syndrome, which is a group of features that link excess fat around your waist and insulin resistance to a greater risk of stroke, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes.

Symptoms of metabolic syndrome can include:

Risk factors

Testing for diabetes should start at about 40 years of age, along with tests for cholesterol, lipids, and other routine blood tests for preventive screening.

However, if you have the following risk factors, your healthcare provider can suggest testing at a younger age:

Adolescents and children may also benefit from diabetes screening if they’re overweight and have two or more of the above risk factors relating to diabetes.


You would have no symptoms at all if you have insulin resistance, but your pancreas is capable of increasing insulin production to maintain sugar levels at the desired range.

Insulin resistance is feared to get worse in the long run and your pancreas cells that produce insulin can go inactive. As a result, your pancreas is no longer able to produce sufficient insulin to overcome the resistance, which can lead to high blood sugar (hyperglycemia).

Management and treatment

As all of the factors that lead to insulin resistance can’t be treated, such as age and genetic factors, lifestyle changes are the ideal treatment for insulin resistance. Lifestyle changes can include:

Eating a healthy diet: It is generally recommended to avoid eating excessive amounts of carbohydrates foods (which cause excess insulin production) and eating less unhealthy fat, red meats, sugar, and processed starches. The focus should be on eating a whole food diet that includes more fruits, vegetables, fish, whole grains, and healthy poultry.

Physical activity: Regular physical exercise of moderate intensity increases glucose usage and enhances muscle insulin sensitivity. A single episode of moderate physical exercise can improve glucose uptake by as much as 40%.

Losing excess weight: Losing excess weight can go a long way toward treating insulin resistance. Losing seven percent of your excess weight can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by 58%.

In the long run, these lifestyle changes can produce the following results:

Other healthcare providers, such as an endocrinologist or nutritionist can support a personalized treatment plan that can prove more fruitful for your health.

Works cited

Last reviewed and updated by on May 1, 2024

Caitlin Goodwin, DNP, RN, CNM, is a Board Certified Nurse-Midwife, Registered Nurse, and freelance writer. She has over twelve years of experience in nursing practice.

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