Insulin resistance, hyperinsulinemia, and coronary artery disease: A complex metabolic web

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168 Scopus citations


Diabetes mellitus is commonly associated with systolic and diastolic hypertension, and a wealth of epidemiological data suggest that this association is independent of age and obesity. Much evidence indicates that the link between diabetes and essential hypertension is hyperinsulinemia. Thus, when hypertensive patients, whether obese or of normal body weight, are compared with age- and weight-matched normotensive controls, a heightened plasma insulin response to a glucose challenge is found consistently. A state of cellular resistance to insulin action subtends the observed hyperinsulinism. Using the insulin/glucose clamp technique in combination with tracer glucose infusion and indirect cal-orimetry, it has been demonstrated that the insulin resistance of essential hypertension is located in peripheral tissues (muscle), is limited to nonoxidative pathways of glucose disposal (glycogen synthesis), and correlates directly with the severity of hypertension. The reasons for the association of insulin resistance and essential hypertension can be sought in at least four general types of mechanisms: Sodium retention, sympathetic nervous system overactivity, disturbed membrane ion transport, and proliferation of vascular smooth-muscle cells. Physiological maneuvers, such as caloric restriction (in the overweight patient) and regular physical exercise, can improve tissue sensitivity to insulin; good evidence indicates that these maneuvers also can lower blood pressure in both normotensive and hypertensive individuals. Insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia also are associated with an atherogenic plasma lipid profile. Elevated plasma insulin concentrations enhance very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) synthesis, leading to hypertriglyceridemia. Progressive elimination of lipid and apolipoproteins from the VLDL particle leads to an increased formation of intermediate density and low-density lipoproteins, both of which are atherogenic. Last, insulin per se, independent of its effects on blood pressure and plasma lipids, is known to be atherogenic. The hormone enhances cholesterol transport into arteriolar smooth-muscle cells and increases endogenous lipid synthesis by these cells. Insulin also stimulates the proliferation of arteriolar smooth-muscle cells, augments collagen synthesis in the vascular wall, increases the formation of and decreases the regression of lipid plaques, and stimulates the production of a variety of growth factors. In summary, insulin resistance appears to be a syndrome that is associated with a clustering of metabolic disorders, including type II diabetes mellitus, obesity, hypertension, lipid abnormalities, and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S1-S16
JournalJournal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1992


  • Coronary artery disease
  • Dyslipidemia
  • Hyperinsulinemia
  • Hypertension
  • Insulin-resistance syndrome
  • Non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus
  • Obesity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Pharmacology


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