Insulin Resistance

ExitCare ImageBlood sugar (glucose) levels are controlled by a hormone called insulin. Insulin is made by your pancreas. When your blood glucose goes up, insulin is released into your blood. Insulin is required for your body to function normally. However, your body can become resistant to your own insulin or to insulin given to treat diabetes. In either case, insulin resistance can lead to serious problems. These problems include:

  • Type 2 diabetes.

  • Heart disease.

  • High blood pressure.

  • Stroke.

  • Polycystic ovary syndrome.

  • Fatty liver.


Insulin resistance can develop for many different reasons. It is more likely to happen in people with these conditions or characteristics:

  • Obesity.

  • Inactivity.

  • Pregnancy.

  • High blood pressure.

  • Stress.

  • Steroid use.

  • Infection or severe illness.

  • Increased levels of cholesterol and triglycerides.


There are no symptoms. You may have symptoms related to the various complications of insulin resistance.


Several different things can make your caregiver suspect you have insulin resistance. These include:

  • High blood glucose (hyperglycemia).

  • Abnormal cholesterol levels.

  • High uric acid levels.

  • Changes related to blood pressure.

  • Changes related to inflammation.

Insulin resistance can be determined with blood tests. An elevated insulin level when you have not eaten might suggest resistance. Other more complicated tests are sometimes necessary.


Lifestyle changes are the most important treatment for insulin resistance.

  • If you are overweight and you have insulin resistance, you can improve your insulin sensitivity by losing weight.

  • Moderate exercise for 30–40 minutes, 4 days a week, can improve insulin sensitivity.

Some medicines can also help improve your insulin sensitivity. Your caregiver can discuss these with you if they are appropriate.


  • Do not smoke.

  • Keep your weight at a healthy level.

  • Get exercise.

  • If you have diabetes, follow your caregiver's directions.

  • If you have high blood pressure, follow your caregiver's directions.

  • Only take prescription medicines for pain, fever, or discomfort as directed by your caregiver.


  • You are diabetic and you are having problems keeping your blood glucose levels at target range.

  • You are having episodes of low blood glucose (hypoglycemia).

  • You feel you might be having side effects from your medicines.

  • You have symptoms of an illness that is not improving after 3–4 days.

  • You have a sore or wound that is not healing.

  • You notice a change in vision or a new problem with your vision.


  • Your blood glucose goes below 70, especially if you have confusion, lightheadedness, or other symptoms with it.

  • Your blood glucose is very high (as advised by your caregiver) twice in a row.

  • You pass out.

  • You have chest pain or trouble breathing.

  • You have a sudden, severe headache.

  • You have sudden weakness in one arm or one leg.

  • You have sudden difficulty speaking or swallowing.

  • You develop vomiting or diarrhea that is getting worse or not improving after 1 day.