Mar 15, 2001 Table of Contents

Please note: This information was current at the time of publication. But medical information is always changing, and some information given here may be out of date. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit familydoctor.org, the AAFP patient education Web site.

Information from Your Family Doctor

Insulin Resistance Syndrome

Am Fam Physician. 2001 Mar 15;63(6):1165-1166.

What is insulin resistance syndrome?

Insulin is a kind of hormone. It helps your body store sugar in your tissues. Your body uses stored sugar for energy.

In some people, the tissues stop responding to insulin. We say that these people are resistant to insulin. If you have insulin resistance, your body will pour more and more insulin into your blood, but it will not help you store sugar.

Insulin resistance often goes along with other health problems, like diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and heart attack. When one person has many of these problems together, we call it insulin resistance syndrome.

How would I know I have insulin resistance syndrome?

No simple test can tell that you have insulin resistance syndrome. If one (or more) of the following is true for you, your doctor may suspect you have insulin resistance syndrome:

  • One (or more) of your brothers, sisters or parents has been diagnosed with diabetes.

  • You have a history of diabetes during pregnancy.

  • You have a history of polycystic ovary syndrome.

  • You have a blood sugar level that is not quite high enough to be diabetes, but it is higher than normal. It means you have more risk of getting diabetes.

  • You are overweight (obese).

  • You have more fat around your waist than around your hips.

See the chart on the next page to find out if you are overweight. See the waist-to-hip drawing to the right to find out if you have too much fat in your abdomen (tummy area).

To find your waist-to-hip ratio, measure the smallest part of your waist with a tape measure. Don't hold in your stomach while you measure!

Now measure the biggest part of your hips with a tape measure. Measure the part where you buttocks stick out the most.

Divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement. The answer is your waist-to-hip ratio. A ratio that is bigger than 1.0 (for men) or 0.8 (for women) shows that your abdomen is obese. Note: the word “obese” means very much overweight.

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To find your waist-to-hip ratio, measure the smallest part of your waist with a tape measure. Don't hold in your stomach while you measure!

Now measure the biggest part of your hips with a tape measure. Measure the part where you buttocks stick out the most.

Divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement. The answer is your waist-to-hip ratio. A ratio that is bigger than 1.0 (for men) or 0.8 (for women) shows that your abdomen is obese. Note: the word “obese” means very much overweight.


To find your waist-to-hip ratio, measure the smallest part of your waist with a tape measure. Don't hold in your stomach while you measure!

Now measure the biggest part of your hips with a tape measure. Measure the part where you buttocks stick out the most.

Divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement. The answer is your waist-to-hip ratio. A ratio that is bigger than 1.0 (for men) or 0.8 (for women) shows that your abdomen is obese. Note: the word “obese” means very much overweight.

Body Mass Index Chart

Body Mass Index Chart

BMI means body mass index. To find your BMI, find your height on the left column. Go across on that line until you find your weight. Now go up that column to the BMI number in the first row across the top. If your BMI number is 25 to 29, you are overweight. If your BMI number is 30 or higher, you are obese.

What can I do about insulin resistance?

If you live a healthy lifestyle, you may be able to avoid getting the diseases that are called insulin resistance syndrome. To live a healthy lifestyle, you should do the following:

  • Keep yourself at a healthy weight. Your doctor will help you get to a healthy weight through diet and exercise. See the BMI chart below to find a healthy weight for your height.

  • Keep walking. Walking just 30 minutes each day will help prevent the diseases of insulin resistance syndrome. Other kinds of exercise also help.

  • Eat a lot of dietary fiber. Foods high in dietary fiber should be a regular part of your diet. You should eat several servings of fruits, vegetables and whole-grain bread every day.


This handout is provided to you by your family doctor and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Other health-related information is available from the AAFP online at http://familydoctor.org.

This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.

Copyright © 2001 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
This content is owned by the AAFP. A person viewing it online may make one printout of the material and may use that printout only for his or her personal, non-commercial reference. This material may not otherwise be downloaded, copied, printed, stored, transmitted or reproduced in any medium, whether now known or later invented, except as authorized in writing by the AAFP. Contact afpserv@aafp.org for copyright questions and/or permission requests.

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