Insulin, a hormone that the pancreas makes, allows cells to absorb and use glucose. In people with insulin resistance, the cells are unable to use insulin effectively.

When the cells cannot absorb glucose, levels of this sugar build up in the blood. If glucose, or blood sugar, levels are higher than usual but not high enough to indicate diabetes, doctors refer to this as prediabetes.

Prediabetes often occurs in people with high insulin resistance. Around in the United States have prediabetes, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In this article, we look at the current understanding of insulin resistance and explain its role as a risk factor for diabetes and other conditions.

We also describe the signs and symptoms of insulin resistance and ways to avoid it.

woman measures blood glucose
Insulin resistance might develop into type 2 diabetes.

Insulin resistance occurs when excess glucose in the blood reduces the ability of the cells to absorb and use blood sugar for energy.

This of developing prediabetes, and eventually, type 2 diabetes.

If the pancreas can make enough insulin to overcome the low rate of absorption, diabetes is less likely to develop, and blood glucose will stay within a healthy range.

How does insulin resistance become diabetes?

In a person with prediabetes, the pancreas works increasingly hard to release enough insulin to overcome the body's resistance and keep blood sugar levels down.

Over time, the pancreas' ability to release insulin begins to decrease, which leads to the development of type 2 diabetes.

Insulin resistance remains a major feature of type 2 diabetes.

The are risk factors for insulin resistance, prediabetes, and diabetes:

Certain risk factors for prediabetes and diabetes are also risk factors for heart disease and other cardiovascular and cerebrovascular health concerns, such as stroke and heart disease.

Because some of these risk factors are widespread and may be avoidable, such as obesity, health authorities are increasing their focus on lifestyle measures that can help reduce the risk of the disease.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommend that all people who are overweight and receive testing for diabetes.

Staying active can reduce insulin resistance.

It is not possible to influence some risk factors for insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, such as family history and genetic makeup.

However, a person can take some steps to reduce the chances of becoming insulin resistant. Some of the same strategies are key to preventing heart disease and stroke.

Also, the American Heart Association (AHA) report that individuals can r of type 2 diabetes by making preventive lifestyle changes, primarily by losing weight and increasing physical activity.

Muscles become after exercise, and a person can reverse insulin resistance with an active, healthful lifestyle.

While a diagnosis of insulin resistance or prediabetes might cause alarm, making rushed lifestyle changes and expecting immediate results is not a sustainable way to proceed.

Instead, increase levels of physical activity gradually, replace one item per meal with a healthful, low-carbohydrate option, and be sure to keep this up, week after week.

The most effective way to reduce insulin resistance is to make slow, sustainable changes.

Here, read about the best foods to eat and avoid to reverse prediabetes.

Prediabetes is only a warning.

Research, including that involving the landmark Diabetes Prevention Program, shows that lifestyle changes can reduce the risk of prediabetes progressing to diabetes by over .

Start taking steps today to reduce insulin resistance and the risk of diabetes.


I have type 2 diabetes. Will I need to start taking insulin every day?


No, having type 2 diabetes does not automatically mean that you will need to take insulin. For some people, especially in the early stages, simply changing your diet to limit the carbohydrate intake and increasing the amount of exercise can control blood sugar.

The next step for treatment is usually oral medication. While type 2 diabetics sometimes requires insulin, other treatment plans are generally tried before advancing to insulin.

Deborah Weatherspoon, PhD, RN, CRNA Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.