Insulin is a hormone secreted by the beta cells of the pancreas which allows the cells to absorb and use glucose for energy. In people with insulin resistance, the cells are not able to use insulin well. When the cells cannot utilise the glucose, the levels of sugar build up in the blood and are high than normal, but not high enough to be diabetic. Also Read: Importance Of Self-Monitoring Blood Sugar

What Is Insulin Resistance?

Insulin resistance is a condition where the cells in the muscles, fat and liver do not react to insulin and are unable to use glucose from the bloodstream for energy. To compensate this, the pancreas makes more insulin and over a period blood sugar levels spikes. Insulin resistance syndrome is a group of health problems including obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes.

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), about 50% of people with insulin resistance and prediabetes will develop type 2 diabetes gradually if they do not make lifestyle modifications. People with high insulin resistance develop into prediabetes and the prevalence of prediabetes in India is 14%.

Symptoms Of Insulin Resistance

Insulin resistance generally does not show any symptoms until it progresses to diabetes. According to the CDC, about 90% of people with prediabetes are unaware of it. Some of the signs that may indicate insulin resistance include:

  • A waistline over 40 inches in men and 35 inches in women
  • Blood pressure of 130/80 mm/Hg and above
  • Fasting blood glucose level above 100 mg/dl
  • Triglyceride level over 150mg/dl
  • HDL cholesterol level below 40 mg/dl in men and 50mg/dl in women
  • Skin patches –dark, velvety skin called acanthosis nigricans on the neck, groin and armpits
insulin resistance

Causes Of Insulin Resistance and Risk Factors

  • Being overweight or obesity, particularly belly fat
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Unhealthy eating habits
  • Smoking
  • Gestational Diabetes
  • Medical problems like non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and polycystic ovary syndrome
  • Family history of diabetes
  • Hormonal conditions like acromegaly and Cushing’s syndrome
  • Intake of certain medications like steroids, antidepressants and HIV drugs
  • Poor sleep patterns like sleep apnea
  • Age-more likely after 45

How Insulin Resistance Progress To Diabetes?

Insulin is a vital hormone required for regulating glucose that circulates in the bloodstream and it makes the cells to absorb glucose. It works as a chemical messenger that initiates the liver to store glucose in the form of glycogen, rather than releasing it into the bloodstream. Insulin supports the body to keep up a good balance of energy and stabilise the blood glucose level and never let it spike.

In a person with insulin resistance, the pancreas works hard to release enough insulin to overcome the body’s resistance to maintain the blood sugar under control. Over a period of time, the pancreas ability to secrete insulin begins to deplete which eventually progresses to the development of type 2 diabetes. Also Read: Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment


The doctor recommends certain blood work that may help diagnose insulin resistance and prediabetes which include:

HbA1C Test –This test measures the average blood glucose level over the last 3 months.

Fasting blood glucose test-This test is done in the morning on an empty stomach, where the person has to refrain from eating or drinking for 8 hours.

Random Blood Glucose Test: This test is done randomly at some point in time during the day.

The doctors generally perform more than one of these tests to confirm the diagnosis. If the blood glucose levels consistently go above the normal range, it determines that the body is becoming resistant to insulin.


Insulin resistance can be effectively prevented by leading a healthy lifestyle which includes eating a balanced diet rich in fibre, protein and complex carbohydrates, exercising regularly for 30 minutes at least five days a week, developing a good sleep pattern, being physically active and managing stress. Studies have shown that losing 7% of body weight can remarkably lower the risk of developing diabetes.