Type 2 diabetes is a disease that occurs when a person’s blood glucose, also called blood sugar, is too high. This due to the body not producing enough insulin to control blood sugar levels. It is widely understood that certain unhealthy foods and living a sedentary lifestyle can cause blood sugar levels to surge. A common complaint may also affect how people manage the condition and potentially pose grave health risks.
According to Diabetes.co.uk, it is widely recognised that people with diabetes who are regularly stressed are more likely to have poor blood glucose control.
As the health site explained: “One of the reasons for this is that stress hormones such as cortisol increase the amount of sugar in our blood.
“High levels of cortisol can lead to conditions such as Cushing’s syndrome, which is one of the lesser known causes of diabetes.
“Constant stress and frustration caused by long term problems with blood glucose regulation can also wear people down and cause them to neglect their diabetes care.”
For example, people may start to ignore their blood sugar levels or simply forget to check them, or they may turn to poor lifestyle habits, exercising less, eating more ‘junk’ and processed foods, drinking more alcohol, and smoking, added the health site.
“This is known as diabetes burnout,” it said.
While stress alters blood sugar levels, the extent of its impact varies from person to person, said the charity.
Studies into the relationship between stress and glucose levels in humans have shown that mental or psychological stress causes a rise in glucose levels in people with type 2 diabetes and in most type 1 diabetics, although levels can drop in some individuals with type 1, it explained.
Physical stress too, such as illness or injury, almost always causes blood sugar levels to elevate in people with either type of diabetes, said the health body.
The “fight-freeze” or “flight response” mode may account for the psychological impact stress has on glucose levels.
As Diabetes.co.uk explained: “When confronted by a threat, hormones are released that help us get ready to either fight the threat or fuel a quick escape.
“There is an increase in glucose for energy, increased blood pressure to take fresh oxygen to working muscles, and the release of adrenalin for heightened vigilance and alertness.
However, in people with diabetes this instinctive response does not work as well, explained the charity: “Insulin is needed to get stored energy (glucose) into the body’s cells. But in people who have diabetes, this process is hampered as insulin is either not produced (as with type 1 diabetes) or not used effectively (type 2 diabetes), resulting in the build-up of excess glucose in the bloodstream.”
How can a person with with diabetes determine whether stress is causing their blood sugar levels to rise?
“A simple way to do this is to rate your stress level on a scale of one to 10 every time you test your blood sugar levels. Make a note of this number and next to it write down your glucose reading.
“By doing this consistently for a few weeks, a pattern should emerge that allows you to see whether high levels of stress coincide with high glucose levels, or vice versa,” added the health site.
According to the NHS, there are a number of ways to combat stress.
- Try these 10 simple stress busters
- Use these easy time-management techniques
- Try mindfulness – studies have found mindfulness can help reduce stress and improve your mood
- Use calming breathing exercises
- Download some relaxation and mindfulness apps on to your phone
- Listen to an anxiety control audio guide
Other things that may help:
- Share your problems with family or friends
- Make more time for your interests and hobbies
- Take a break or holiday
- Take some regular exercise and make sure you’re eating healthily
- Make sure you’re getting enough sleep (see tips on better sleep)