Insulin resistance happens when your body requires a high amount of insulin to manage blood glucose (also known as blood sugar). Insulin resistance is a problem found in people with prediabetes and type 2 diabetes, but people with type 1 diabetes can become insulin resistant, too.
How Insulin Resistance Works
Insulin acts like a key that unlocks cells so they can take in glucose from the blood. Someone with insulin resistance needs more insulin to keep blood glucose from rising higher than usual.
There are a number of reasons why someone with type 1 diabetes might have insulin resistance. Risk factors include excess body weight, medications (including steroids), smoking, puberty, pregnancy in the second and third trimesters, and a family history of type 2 diabetes.
If you think you have insulin resistance, talk to your health care provider. They can check the total amount of insulin you’re using per day compared to your body weight. If you need to use a lot of insulin compared to your body weight, it could mean you have insulin resistance.
How to Prevent Insulin Resistance
Working with your health care provider is key. The following steps may help you reduce insulin resistance:
- If you are overweight or obese, lose weight. Dropping about 7 to 10 percent (about 10–15 pounds for a person weighing 150 pounds) of your body weight makes a big difference.
- Change your diet by reducing the amount of fat and/or calories you consume.
- Exercise makes your cells more sensitive to insulin, so get active for 150 minutes a week (try 30 minutes for five days a week).
- For insulin resistance that’s caused by medications such as steroids, ask your doctor if there is a good alternative. (But don’t stop taking a medication without first talking to your doctor.)
- If you smoke, quit.
- If you eat excess carbohydrates, reduce the amount you eat. A registered dietitian can help guide you.
What to Do If You Think You Have Insulin Resistance and Type 1 Diabetes
If you seem to need larger amounts of insulin than usual, reach out to your health care provider to find out what may be causing it and come up with a plan of care.
Insulin resistance can raise blood glucose levels. It’s important to use as much insulin as you need to keep your blood glucose levels in your target range. Your health care provider can work with you to adjust your treatment plan.