The Link Between Diabetes & Stress

It is well known that stress is a major contributor in problems with metabolic activity in the body. When under stress, the body’s flight and fight response gets activated. For this response, plenty of energy is required. When under stress, the body releases a variety of hormones which have a direct impact on the glucose levels with them becoming elevated. The primary hormones released when under stress are cortisol and adrenaline. The purpose of these hormones is to provide the body with enough energy to either fight with the stressor or escape from the situation. [1, 2, 3]

The stress hormones however affect the way insulin present in the body works resulting in insulin resistance. Because of this, adequate energy is not able to get into the cells resulting in a significant rise in blood sugar levels. Sometimes, the blood sugar may rise to a level where it is termed as hyperglycemia, which is a pre-diabetic condition. [1, 2, 3]

If stress is not controlled then the blood sugar levels remain high and put the individual at risk for diabetes. Persistent stress also has a significant impact on the emotional health of a person as well. [1, 2, 3] The article below explores more into the link between diabetes and stress.

The Link Between Diabetes And Stress

The link between diabetes and stress has been a matter of research now for decades, in fact centuries. However, a recent research reveals that people with a known diagnosis of anxiety, depression, and persistent stress are more at risk for developing type-2 diabetes than others. There are quite a number of stressful situations that a person may encounter that increase the risk for developing diabetes. [3]

These include certain life events like loss of a loved one or a series of losses in quick succession. A traumatic experience like witnessing a terrorist attack or a natural disaster can also be quite stressful for a person for a significantly long time. A person who has a short fuse and gets angry over small things and is hostile towards others also runs a risk of developing diabetes later on. People who are stressed due to work pressures and disturbed sleep also run the risk of developing diabetes. [3]

A group of researchers from the University of Amsterdam have come up with some possible explanation as to how various stressors in everyday life can increase the risk for diabetes. These include lifestyle, hormone levels, and immune system. However, all of these explanations are hypothetical even though some researchers have given some evidence about the link between diabetes and stress but more work needs to be done in this area to come to a concrete conclusion. [3]

How stress affects the lifestyle of a person and increases the risk for diabetes can be explained in that high level of stress causes a person to switch to an unhealthy lifestyle,. The person will not eat a healthy diet. The sleep will be disturbed. The person may indulge into smoking, recreational drug use, and excessive alcohol consumption to relieve stress. All of these habits are a precursor for many medical conditions of which diabetes is one of them. [3]

As stated, excessive stress affects the hormone levels in the body that results in insulin resistance. Stress activates the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis and the sympathetic nervous system which causes certain hormonal changes in the body. This results in elevated levels of cortisol and adrenaline which interfere with the working of insulin causing high blood sugar levels. A person with abnormal hormonal levels will have a waist that is larger than the hips and this is one of the most important risk factor for diabetes. [3]

Persistent stress also affects the immune system of the body. Researchers found out in a study that immune response that is generally seen with chronic stress is quite similar to the immune response that is seen in the development of diabetes. [3]

How To Tell If Stress Is Affecting Blood Sugar Levels?

To find out if stress levels are impacting the blood sugar levels, it is best to check the blood sugar levels throughout the day especially when under severe stress. People should also keep an eye on their diet and the way they feel in general. If they note that their sugar levels are above normal then they can see a physician and get their reading analyzed. If a physician feels that stress is causing a rise in sugar levels of a person then he or she can suggest various ways to control stress by healthful means. [3]

In conclusion, there is a clear link established at least hypothetically between stress and diabetes. In fact, researchers reveal that stress can be both a contributor to diabetes and also can be a consequence of it. A person under stress has elevated levels of certain hormones, generally cortisol and adrenaline. Both these hormones have a significant impact on how insulin works in the body and cause insulin resistance. This in turn results in the person having high sugar levels. [1, 2, 3]

Elevated stress can also result in a person leading an unhealthy lifestyle which further increases the risk for developing diabetes. Even though there are many theories that establish a link between diabetes and stress, research is still going on as to identify the exact mechanism that is behind this link. [1, 2, 3]

A person with known diagnosis of diabetes is recommended to keep their stress levels under control. This can be done through counseling, exercise, yoga and meditation.

These are proven methods of improving stress in a healthful manner. If stress is under control then in all likelihood the sugar levels of a diabetic will also come under control. [1, 2, 3]

A consultation with a physician is required is a person is not able to control stress despite the means discussed above, especially if they feel that they are going into depression. In such cases psychotherapy might be of help to not only combat stress but also to control diabetes as well. [1, 2, 3]

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