Simple Ways to Check for Insulin Resistance At Home

Simple Ways to Check for Insulin Resistance At Home
Photo by Siora Photography / Unsplash

Insulin Resistance is defined as the inability of insulin to increase glucose uptake and utilization. In simpler terms, this means that the body doesn’t have the ability to respond to and use the insulin it produces; therefore, cells no longer react to insulin properly and easily absorb glucose from the bloodstream. Insulin resistance is a major problem in the United States and across the globe, which poses a serious public health threat for the current and future generations.

The United States currently has a population of adults and children that is 1/3 overweight or obese, a statistic that truly needs to change. There are multiple causes of insulin resistance, but the two main ones are physical inactivity and excess belly fat. An individualized, functional approach should be used to assess for insulin resistance.

Insulin resistance is a complex condition that is linked to weight gain, inflammation, metabolic inflexibility, high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, and mitochondrial dysfunction. Insulin resistance is a leading risk factor for obesity, Type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, blindness, neurodegenerative diseases, and cancers.

Rates of insulin resistance steadily continue to increase worldwide and it can affect anyone of all ages and races. Fortunately, insulin resistance is reversible and there are early warning signs that can be seen by the naked eye before full blown Type II diabetes occurs. It is critical to be aware of this and how to assess for signs of insulin resistance.

Ways to Check for Insulin Resistance

Insulin resistance is a “silent” blood sugar problem, which means it typically presents with no symptoms. People can have this health condition for several years without knowing it; however, there are notable signs that can show insulin resistance may be developing. It is fundamental to note that people who are insulin resistant can experience both hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia.

Through a patient history, physical exam, and comprehensive lab testing insulin resistance can be diagnosed. The problem is that by the time lab tests detect insulin resistance, it has already been present for a long time. This is why going to the doctor for a yearly physical exam is very important and should never be skipped. On the bright side there are noticeable signs that can be detected by the average person.

Early signs of insulin resistance that may be experienced are weight gain, excess belly fat, skin tags or discolorations, frequent urination, thirst, irritability, hunger, sweating and shaking this between meals. If you experience any of these early warning signs you should notify your primary healthcare provider right away for routine lab testing.

The most accurate, definitive way to check for insulin resistance is a fasting insulin level. Other significant lab testing for insulin resistance consists of a fasting blood sugar level, a glucose tolerance test, a lipid panel, a liver panel, uric acid, hemoglobin A1c, and C-peptide.

Again, the problem is by the time lab testing reveals insulin resistance, it has already been present for quite some time. Self-awareness of how to assess for insulin resistance in this situation is key. Simple ways to check for insulin resistance at home include performing a skin assessment, measuring the waistline, assessing blood sugar, and checking blood pressure.

Measure The Waistline

The primary cause of insulin resistance is excess visceral fat, which is belly fat found deep inside the abdominal cavity that surrounds important organs, such as, the liver, stomach and intestines. A simple way to check for insulin resistance is to measure the waistline. A female waist greater than 45 cm and a male waist greater than 40 cm are indicative that insulin resistance is likely present.

Excess central adiposity, or visceral belly fat, is considered dangerous toxic fat because it activates the inflammatory response, secretes its own hormones, and increases the risk for chronic diseases and cancer. This fat creates a toxin haven for the body further making insulin resistance worse.

Exercise and a healthy whole foods diet rich in healthy fats and protein are the best ways to prevent the build up of visceral fat. If your waistline is greater than 40 cm, notify your healthcare provider and seek a board certified health coach and personal trainer.

Perform A Skin Assessment

Insulin resistance affects blood vessels and nerves in the skin, and changes in the skin can be a warning sign that blood glucose levels are too high and insulin resistance is likely present. Acanthosis nigricans is a common skin condition that causes dark, thick, velvety patches of skin that appear in body folds and creases, such as, the neck, armpits, and groin. These lesions can also present on the knees, hands, and elbows and be an underlying sign that insulin resistance may be developing.

Performing regular skin assessments is a simple way to check for insulin resistance. Observe and palpate the skin for color, temperature, texture, mobility, and any lesions. If you encounter any unusual changes in your skin, it is important to notify your healthcare provider, as early detection and treatment are crucial in the prevention of insulin resistance and serious complications.

Assess Blood Sugar

A simple way to assess blood sugar at home is to perform a fasting blood glucose check with a portable electronic glucose monitor in the morning. A fasting blood glucose level of 100 or greater is indicative of insulin resistance.

It is important to realize that insulin resistance can cause both hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia symptoms creating a blood sugar rollercoaster; therefore, it is vital to know the symptoms for both. Again, the most definitive way to assess blood glucose is to check a fasting level; however, blood sugar spikes and dips can be observed and felt by the person.

Frequent urination, hunger, and thirst are classic symptoms of hyperglycemia. If these symptoms are regularly experienced along with symptoms of hypoglycemia- irritability, sweating, hunger, and dizziness in between meals, notify your healthcare provider. Monitoring your blood sugar and knowing the symptoms of hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia are easy ways to check for insulin resistance from home.

Check Blood Pressure

Insulin resistance is linked to hypertension and both usually display no symptoms, which causes many people to be unaware and undiagnosed. High insulin levels stimulate the sympathetic nervous system and stiffen arteries, which increases blood pressure. The American Heart Association classifies a normal blood pressure as less than 120/80, and stage I hypertension as a systolic blood pressure of 130-139 and a diastolic blood pressure of 80 to 89; therefore, a reading of 130/80 or greater is considered high.

A simple way to check for insulin resistance is to take a blood pressure with a home blood pressure monitor. If you obtain a high reading, start to take your blood pressure daily and create a log to keep track. Make an appointment with your primary healthcare provider and bring your blood pressure log with you. Hypertension is a warning sign that insulin resistance could be present and should not be ignored.

Final Thoughts

Insulin resistance is a complex, multifactorial condition when cells in the body lose the ability to respond to insulin and use it as fuel. Insulin resistance affects one in three people across the globe and is a serious health problem that is linked to hypertension, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative disease, and cancer. Simple ways to check for insulin resistance from home include performing a skin assessment, measuring the waistline, assessing blood sugar, and checking blood pressure.

Excess belly fat is the primary cause of insulin resistance. Exercise and a nutrient-dense diet are the top two ways to prevent visceral belly fat and insulin resistance; however, the most important part in prevention is you. Make sure to regularly check your skin, waistline, blood sugar, and blood pressure, and notify your healthcare provider of any abnormalities.

Thank you for reading this article.


This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement or lifestyle program.