What is insulin resistance?

Insulin resistance

What is insulin resistance?

Insulin resistance is a condition when your body doesn’t respond normally to insulin and can’t easily process sugar in your blood. This causes your pancreas to produce even more insulin to compensate.1 

When discussing diabetes management with your healthcare provider, insulin resistance is commonly mentioned. That’s why it’s important to understand what this is and how to manage it. Due to the decreased ability of insulin to help with controlling sugar levels, more insulin is needed to help the uptick of sugar in the muscle and liver. 


How resistance occurs

Insulin is a vital hormone since it helps to transport glucose (sugar) from the bloodstream into cells to produce energy. People with diabetes often wonder what causes their bodies to become resistant to insulin.  

Graphic depicting insulin resistance  

Several factors and conditions can cause varying degrees of it. Scientists believe that excess body fat, especially around your belly, and physical inactivity are the two main contributing factors to insulin resistance.2 Of course, these are common causes, but they do not always mean you will have insulin resistance because of them. Both awareness and being able to identify the symptoms is important.


Symptoms of insulin resistance

If you have insulin resistance, but your pancreas can increase insulin production to keep your blood sugar levels in range, you won’t have any symptoms. However, over time, it can get worse, and the cells in your pancreas that make insulin can wear out. 

Eventually, your pancreas is no longer able to produce enough insulin to overcome the resistance, leading to elevated blood sugar (hyperglycemia), which does cause symptoms.

Hyperglycemia range graph Hyperglycemia is high blood sugar. The American Diabetes Association suggests these targets for nonpregnant adults with diabetes. Post meals should be less than 180 mg/dL.

Symptoms of high blood sugar include3:

If you notice any of these symptoms, it is advised to call your healthcare provider (HCP) to discuss further.

In some situations, insulin resistance and high blood sugar can indicate early stages of prediabetes or possibly other conditions that need further evaluation by an HCP.  It’s important to be proactive in following up with your medical team for early diagnosis and treatment.


Diagnosis and testing

Your healthcare provider may order the following blood tests to diagnose insulin resistance and/or prediabetes or diabetes:

  • Glucose. A fasting plasma glucose (FPG) or a glucose tolerance test (GTT) may be used to screen for, diagnose and/or monitor prediabetes, type 2 diabetes, or gestational diabetes.

  • Glycated hemoglobin A1c. This test reveals your average blood glucose levels over the past three months.

  • Lipid panel. This is a group of tests that measure specific lipids in your blood, such as total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol and triglycerides.

Your healthcare provider may also order tests that can help diagnose other conditions that are associated with insulin resistance, such as metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). If your healthcare team diagnoses insulin resistance, there are multiple treatment options.


Treatment and management

Healthy lifestyle changes can help in the treatment.  Many of these changes help benefit overall health as well.

One of the most impactful things you can do to help increase your insulin sensitivity is to incorporate physical activity into your day. Exercise may lead to weight loss, especially in those who are overweight. In turn, this can increase insulin sensitivity and decrease insulin resistance. There are many options in the treatment of insulin resistance that should be reviewed with your HCP to see what is best for you.



When detected early, insulin resistance can be successfully managed with the help of your healthcare team. Lifestyle choices such as incorporating physical activity and healthy food choices can help. 

The key is to pay attention to the signs and symptoms your body gives you. The earlier this happens and the sooner you bring it to the attention of your HCP, the better!



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Submitted by Elizabeth Severson (not verified) on

In reply to by Commenter (not verified)

I have been using the 780G pump for about 3 weeks now. It was a bit difficult to set up mostly because everytime I ran into a glitch and called medtronic the waiting time was always over an hour and when I opted to have them call me back and I never got a call. So it took longer than expected an a bit complicated to do all the setting from home, I am a professional Health caregiver, on retirement. Even with my background it gets a little confusing as you get older, and I wonder how seniors at home can managed all the technical issues safely while they are alone and getting help takes such a long time. As far as the pump, I am looking forward to use it longer and learning all the components so I can work with it better. I love that we do not have to calibrate ourselves, and that automatically gives you more insulin if I have a spike up or slows it down if I do not need as much insulin. that is a wonderful new component in this pump, which I believe it will help me to keep in range a lot better. I had some issues with the 780G reading low BG and when I checked my BG the results were higher more than 30 points from what the pump displayed., I had to change the guardian 4 sensor twice in one week, until finally it worked well. Medtronic is replacing the ones that did not work well, for whatever reason? Now I had a whole week with a new guardian sensor and it is working better. I also love the new extended infusion set , it is easier to placed and less painful. the only issue is that the tape that holds it, comes off easily. I have used extra tape to hold i place and it works well.

Thank you so much for sharing your experience, Elizabeth! We are happy to hear that you are liking the Guardian 4 and the Extended infusion sets!

Submitted by C Paul King (not verified) on

In reply to by Commenter (not verified)

The article had some good information. But more needs to be written about type 1 diabetes that have become insulin resistant over time. I have been a type 1 diabetic for over 49 years. I love my insulin pumps, which I have been using for about 20 years.However I now also have a problem with insulin resistance. I would love to see more on dealing with insulin resistance while also having type 1 diabetes.

BTW I love the watch app that I can use with my new 780G pump but wish I could use it with a bigger variety of watch faces.

Thanks for the feedback! We will share all of this with our teams!

Submitted by Darlene seevers (not verified) on

In reply to by Commenter (not verified)

I have to say. I love my 780 insulin pump. know more worries if I'm taking enough insulin. this is the best insulin pump ever.
so glad that medtronic came out with this pump.

We're so glad to hear that you are loving your 780G!

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