Insulin resistance often referred to as prediabetes, means you have a higher-than-normal blood sugar level but not high enough to be considered type 2 diabetes yet. If you have prediabetes, the long-term damage of diabetes may already be starting. There's good news, however. Progression from prediabetes to type 2 diabetes is evitable. 

Let’s look at what it is and who gets it. The symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment. 

What Is Insulin Resistance?

To understand insulin resistance, often referred to as prediabetes, let's first talk about what insulin does. When you eat food, your body digest and converts that food into dietary sugars that go into the bloodstream. Insulin is a hormone released by the pancreas that tells your cells to open up to that sugar, let it in the cells and convert it into energy. 

With insulin resistance, the cells don't react and don't open up, resulting in excessive sugar in the blood. Over time, the pancreas keeps trying to regulate the blood sugar, producing more insulin until it wears out and gets so fatigued that it can't produce large amounts of insulin anymore. As a result, blood sugar levels increase to the point of being in the diabetic range and needing injectable insulin. 

Plausibly the two most prominent risk factors of insulin resistance (the cells not reacting to the insulin) are excess sugar consumption; overworking the pancreas, and leading a sedentary lifestyle; not using the glucose in the cells.  In some cases, insulin resistance may manifest itself from genetic abnormalities and drug use.  


Who gets it?

Why the cells’ insulin receptors or the glucose channels stop reacting or opening to let the glucose in the cell is unknown. However, there is a strong correlation (linked) between people with excess weight and becoming insulin-resistant. The more fatty tissue you have — especially inside and between the muscle and skin around your abdomen — the more resistant your cells become to insulin. 

Being insulin resistant is also linked to Inactivity or living a sedentary lifestyle. 

Risk is further increased with a family history of type two diabetes, age over 45, African, Latino or Native American ancestry, smoking, and certain medications, including steroids medication. Other medical conditions are associated with insulin resistance, like obstructive sleep apnea, fatty liver disease, polycystic ovarian syndrome, PCOS, Cushing's syndrome, and lipodystrophy syndromes. 

What are the symptoms?


Very often, people with insulin resistance don't have any symptoms. Their doctor usually picks it up during an annual health exam or routine blood work. There are some signs of insulin resistance that your doctor may look for. These include a waistline over 40 inches in men and a waistline over 35 inches in women. Other symptoms are skin tags or patches of dark velvety skin called acanthosis nigricans, a blood pressure reading of 130 over 80 or higher, an elevated blood sugar level,  an abnormal cholesterol level, and elevated triglycerides ( a form of fat in the blood)  level. Having three of these symptoms could be described as a metabolic storm. 

                                                                         Insulin Storm

How is it diagnosed?

If your doctor spots these symptoms, they may follow up with a physical exam and various blood tests. More recently, Healthcare providers started using a blood test called glycated hemoglobin (A1c) to diagnose prediabetes and diabetes. It shows your average blood sugar level for the past three months. 

In general:

  • An A1c level below 5.7% is considered normal. 
  • An A1c level between 5.7% and 6.4% is considered prediabetes.
  • An A1c level of 6.5% or higher on two separate tests indicates type 2 diabetes.

How is it treated?

The good news is that at the prediabetes level and even sometimes at the diabetes level, you can reverse how your cells react to insulin. It’s not too late. Reversing insulin resistance and preventing type two diabetes is possible through diet and lifestyle changes, and sometimes medication. Losing weight through drastic means can be dangerous and counterproductive. Instead, get ideas from a doctor or a nutritionist about ways to incorporate healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, and more proteins into your meals and eliminate all simple sugars giving a most needed rest to your pancreas and your insulin receptors which could then become sensitive to insulin again. Also, consider incorporating exercise and movement into your day-to-day life in ways that make you feel good. Healthy bodies come in different shapes and sizes. Forget the scale and aim at reducing your waistline measurement to smaller than 40 inches for men and smaller than 35 inches for women.

What now?

Even though permanently defeating insulin resistance isn't always possible, you can help your body to be more receptive to insulin. Listen to your body, reduce stress, and give it the nutrition and activity it desires. Eating healthy foods, making physical activity part of your daily routine, and staying at a healthy waistline measurement can help bring your blood sugar level back to normal. Continue watching your blood pressure and cholesterol level will protect your metabolism from a storm.



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