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Insulin Resistance and Diabetes

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Insulin resistance puts you on the path toward getting prediabetes, type 2 diabetes, or metabolic syndrome. You can prevent or stop it in its tracks by being physically active, losing extra pounds, and, in some cases, taking the prescription drug metformin.

Insulin is a hormone that controls your blood sugar levels. If you have insulin resistance, your body doesn't respond as well as it should to the insulin it makes. That leaves your blood sugar levels higher than they should be. As a result, your pancreas has to make more insulin to manage your blood sugar.

You may also have heard of "insulin resistance syndrome," also called metabolic syndrome. It includes:

  • Waist size of 40 inches or more in men and 35 inches or more in women.
  • High levels of triglycerides (a type of fat in the blood): Your levels are 150 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL), or you're taking medicine to control your triglycerides.
  • Low levels of "good" (HDL) cholesterol: Less than 40 mg/dL for men and less than 50 mg/dL for women.
  • High blood pressure: Your blood pressure is 130/85 or higher, or you're taking medicine to treat high BP.
  • Blood sugar levels that are above normal: Your fasting blood sugar levels are 100 mg/dL or above, or you're taking medicine to treat high blood sugar levels.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

You can't tell that you have insulin resistance by how you feel. You'd need to get a blood test that checks your blood sugar levels.

Likewise, you wouldn't know if you have most of the other conditions that are part of insulin resistance syndrome (high blood pressure, low "good" cholesterol levels, and high triglycerides) without seeing your doctor.

Simple Lifestyle Changes Make a Difference

If you already have insulin resistance, you can take actions that will help your health.

  • Exercise. Go for at least 30 minutes a day of moderate activity (like brisk walking) 5 or more days a week. If you're not active now, work up to that.
  • Get to a healthy weight. If you're not sure what you should weigh or how to reach a weight loss goal, ask your doctor. You may also want to talk with a nutritionist and a certified personal trainer.
  • Eat a healthy diet. Think fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, beans, fish, legumes, and other lean protein.  

Some people with insulin resistance may also need to take the prescription drug metformin to help control it. 

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Michael Dansinger, MD on October 22, 2014
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Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

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