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Insulin Resistance - Topic Overview

Insulin resistance refers to the inability of the body tissues to respond properly to insulin. Insulin lets sugar (glucose) enter body cells, where it is used for energy. Insulin also helps muscles, fat, and liver cells store sugar to be released when it is needed. If the body tissues do not respond properly to insulin, the blood sugar level rises.

Insulin resistance causes the pancreas to release too much insulin (hyperinsulinemia). It may also cause the liver to release too much sugar into the blood.

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Several things may increase insulin resistance, including:

  • Family history. Insulin resistance may run in families.
  • Being overweight. The more a person weighs, the more insulin his or her pancreas makes and the less the person's body cells respond to insulin. People who are overweight mostly in the upper body have greater insulin resistance and have the greatest risk for type 2 diabetes.
  • Lack of exercise. People who get little or no exercise often have much greater insulin resistance than people who exercise on a regular basis.
  • Age. Teens and older adults usually have greater insulin resistance. Teens have greater insulin resistance because of growth hormones.
  • Pregnancy. In the last 3 to 4 months of pregnancy (third trimester), insulin resistance is increased. A woman who did not have diabetes before pregnancy can develop a type called gestational diabetes.
  • Some medicines such glucocorticoids (for example, prednisone) can reduce the body's response to insulin.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: November 14, 2013
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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    If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

    People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

    Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

    However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

    Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

    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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