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Can Stress Cause Diabetes?

written by: Harry Sylvester • edited by: lrohner • updated: 9/21/2010

When you are under stress, blood glucose levels rise quickly, but stress prevents your body from emitting insulin. Can stress cause diabetes? No, it can’t, but stress can worsen diabetic conditions. Learn more about the associations between stress and diabetes.

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    Stress and Diabetes

    Studies have discovered that stress is closely associated with the chance of deteriorating blood glucose levels, especially for those with diabetes. Stress can result from physical and mental factors. Accidents, poor health, and workload are examples of physical factors, while financial and marital problems, emotional well-being, and overall health are some of mental sources.

    Diabetes is a life-style disease in which blood glucose level are abnormally high. Foods you have consumed produce glucose in the body. Insulin is a hormone that helps cells in the body absorb glucose from the blood.

    There are three common types of diabetes:

    • Type 1 diabetes means that your body cannot produce insulin
    • Type 2 diabetes means that your body cannot produce enough insulin, or is resistant to insulin
    • Gestational diabetes means that diabetes occurs during pregnancy

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    Can Stress Cause Diabetes?

    Stress is likely to affect those with type 2 diabetes, which is a common type of diabetes. In this type, the body cannot produce insulin normally and the effect is bad enough. During stressful conditions, your blood glucose or blood sugar levels increase quickly. Hormones such as glucagon and adrenaline (epinephrine) take effect to anticipate the need for energy when needed, but insulin levels drop. Stress prevents the body from emitting insulin. Therefore, if you feel frightened or worried about something, then your heart will palpitate faster or you may get shaky. It is a normal reaction as it is a sign that adrenaline is rushing into the bloodstream. Further, the liver releases more glucose followed by the rise of cortisol and growth hormone, making fat and muscle less responsive to insulin.

    The body needs insulin to use glucose for more energy. After you have consumed foods, glucose from sugars and starches is applied to be energy for daily activity. When insulin drops because of stress, it means more glucose accumulates in the bloodstream rather than into the cells. This means your glucose levels will raise significantly.

    You might not realize that stress can also affect blood glucose levels because of physical inactivity. You might forget exercising as a part of your healthy life and preparing for diabetic foods. It is possible that you consume unhealthy foods containing high calories, carbohydrate, and sugar. Stress increases glucose levels and makes them difficult to check. You might have to take higher doses of insulin to cope with this situation.

    With that said, stress cannot cause diabetes, but stress might exacerbate conditions of those who have diabetes. Studies have disclosed that stress can cause problems with glycemic control in people with diabetes. Those undergoing long-term stress are more likely to have higher blood glucose levels, as stress hormones might convert blood glucose levels. They must manage stressful situations to keep blood glucose levels more stable.

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    How to Maintain Stress-free and Healthy Life

    If you have type 2 diabetes, the glucose remains in your blood without enough insulin. It makes you more vulnerable to stress hormones. However, stress hormone will never affect those with type 1 diabetes because their body cannot produce insulin. Considering this, the most effective way is to avoid and reduce stressful situations.

    You can start thinking positive. Get rid of any negative thoughts toward anyone. When you have a positive thinking mindset, you can avoid stress and always have positive thoughts. Learn to understand your environment and learn to be patient.

    The other way is to work out regularly. Take some exercises such as aerobic and dance lessons to reduce glucose levels in your blood by moving your body around. Alternatively, you can ride a bike to enjoy the great outdoors around you. Cruising around town is inevitably an effective way to eliminate stressful conditions.

    Last but not least, avoid drinking coffee because caffeine can increase stress hormones that will eventually account for boosting glucose levels.

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    References

    The American Diabetes Association: Living with Diabetes - http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/complications/stress.html

    Medicinenet.com: Stress and Diabetes - http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=47115

    Reuters.com: Diabetes-related Stress May Affect Blood Sugar - http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE52U75P20090331