Insulin resistance increases your risk for progressing to diabetes. You could be insulin resistant for years without knowing it. This condition typically doesn’t trigger any noticeable symptoms. So, it’s important your doctor regularly checks your blood glucose levels.

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) estimates that up to 50 percent of people with insulin resistance and prediabetes will develop type 2 diabetes if they don’t make lifestyle changes.

Insulin resistance increases the risk of:

Some people with insulin resistance may also develop a skin condition known as acanthosis nigricans. It appears as dark, velvety patches often on the backs of the neck, groin, and armpits.

Some experts believe a buildup of insulin within skin cells may cause acanthosis nigricans. There’s no cure for this condition. But if another condition causes it, treatment may help natural skin color to return.

The effects of insulin resistance

If you have prediabetes, it’s important to work with you doctor. They will routinely monitor your blood sugar or HgbA1c so they can recognize whether you’ve developed diabetes.

Classic diabetes symptoms include:

  • extreme thirst or hunger
  • feeling hungry even after a meal
  • increased or frequent urination
  • tingling sensations in hands or feet
  • feeling more tired than usual
  • frequent infections
  • evidence in blood work

If you don’t have obvious symptoms, you doctor can usually detect insulin resistance, prediabetes, or diabetes with a blood draw.

A1C test

One way to diagnose prediabetes or diabetes is with an A1C test. This test measures your average blood sugar over the previous two to three months.

  • An A1C under 5.7 percent is considered normal.
  • An A1C between 5.7 and 6.4 percent is diagnostic for prediabetes.
  • An A1C equal to or above 6.5 percent is diagnostic for diabetes.

Your doctor may want to reconfirm the test results later. However, depending on the lab where you have your blood drawn, these numbers could vary by 0.1 to 0.2 percent.

Fasting blood glucose test

A fasting blood glucose test will show your fasting blood sugar level. You’d have this test done after not eating or drinking for at least eight hours.

A high level may require a second test a few days later to confirm the reading. If both tests show elevated levels of blood glucose, your doctor may diagnose you with prediabetes or diabetes.

  • Fasting blood sugar levels under 100 milligrams/deciliter (mg/dL) are considered normal.
  • Levels between 100 and 125 mg/dL indicate prediabetes.
  • Levels equal to or greater than 126 mg/dL are diagnostic for diabetes.

Depending on the lab, these numbers could vary up to 3 mg/dL points in the cutoff numbers.

Glucose tolerance testing

According to the ADA, a two-hour glucose tolerance test may be another way to diagnose prediabetes or diabetes. Your blood glucose level will be determined before this test begins. You’ll then receive a premeasured sugary drink and your blood glucose level is checked again in two hours.

  • A blood sugar level after two hours of less than 140 mg/dL is considered normal.
  • A result between 140 mg/dL and 199 mg/dL is considered prediabetes.
  • A blood sugar level of 200mg/dL or higher is considered diabetes.

Random blood draws

Random blood sugar tests are useful if you’re experiencing significant diabetes symptoms. However, the ADA doesn’t recommend random blood glucose tests for routine diabetes screening or for identifying prediabetes.

When you should get tested

Testing for diabetes should begin at about age 40, along with the usual tests for cholesterol and other markers of health. Ideally, your doctor will test you at your annual physical exam or preventive screening.

Your doctor may recommend testing at a younger age if you:

  • have a sedentary lifestyle
  • have a low good cholesterol (HDL) level or high triglyceride levels
  • have a parent or sibling with diabetes
  • are American Indian, African-American, Latino, Asian-American, or Pacific Islander
  • have high blood pressure (140/90 mm Hg or above)
  • have symptoms of insulin resistance
  • were diagnosed with gestational diabetes (a temporary condition that causes diabetes only while pregnant)
  • had a baby who weighed more than 9 pounds
  • have had a stroke

Children and teens ages 10 to 18 may also benefit from diabetes screening if they are overweight and have two or more of the above risk factors for diabetes.

Preventing insulin resistance problems

If you have prediabetes, you may prevent diabetes by exercising 30 minutes at least five days a week and eating a balanced diet. Losing weight, even just 7 percent of your body weight, can lower your risk of developing diabetes.

Making good lifestyle choices is the best way to get your blood glucose levels in the desired range.

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