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5 Swaps to Make to Lower Blood Sugar and Stress

Natalie Stein
October 12, 2020
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What Is Diabetes?


Diabetes is higher-than-normal blood sugar. Prediabetes is blood sugar that is higher than normal, but not as high as in diabetes. Having prediabetes means being at higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

Is Stress Giving Me Diabetes?


Is stress taking over your life? Is it present most of the time during the day or when lying in bed at night? If stress is a burden, it may be causing harmful effects on health.

In fact, frequent multitasking, worrying, rushing around, or experiencing stress in other ways can be linked to higher risk for diabetes, and abnormally high blood sugar. Here is how stress and diabetes may be related, and what you can do about it.

The Stress Response

The stress response is your body’s reaction to stress. Acute stress can come from being ill with a cold or getting amped before giving a talk at work. Heart rate increases, breathing deepens, muscles tense, blood sugar increases, senses sharpen, and focus increases. You are ready to take on the challenge! 

Common sources of chronic stress include jobs and careers, relationships, children, finances, health, and more. The stress response is helpful to get over short-term, or acute, sources of stress, but chronic stress can lead to a chronic stress response, and that is when the stress response can cause problems.

The Link Between Stress and Diabetes

It appears that having a lot of chronic stress may be linked to higher risk for diabetes. In one study, women who reported having moderate or high levels of stress were 2.3 times as likely to develop diabetes within 3 years as women who reported less stress.[1] other research found that people experiencing high psychosocial stress at work were 3 times as likely to develop diabetes, and 6 times as likely if they were women [2].

The link between stress and diabetes risk may be related to the effects of a stress hormone called cortisol. Cortisol raises blood sugar. High blood sugar can provide energy when, say, you are facing a source of acute stress, such as racing to prevent your toddler from climbing a bookshelf.

High blood sugar can, however, be harmful when it happens too often, say, continually worrying about paying the bills while taking care of an aging parent and working. Having blood sugar levels too high, too often may lead to insulin resistance and prediabetes or diabetes.

Inflammation may be another possible link between stress and diabetes risk[3]. Stress raises inflammation in the body, and increased inflammation is a risk factor for diabetes.

Lifestyle Stressors and Diabetes Risk

There are also some factors that can raise stress levels and risk for diabetes at the same time. For example, certain lifestyle choices that increase stress also often tend to increase blood sugar or diabetes risk. These are a few choices that can increase levels of stress and blood sugar, chronic inflammation, and/or diabetes risk.

  • Being overweight or obese.
  • Consuming a lot of added sugars.
  • Not consuming enough nutrient-rich foods.
  • Skimping on sleep regularly.
  • Missing out on regular physical activity.

Lowering Stress and Diabetes Risk

On the other hand, other lifestyle choices can help manage stress and lower diabetes risk at the same time. Stress management can be a daily choice, with approaches such as:

  • Deep breathing.
  • Progressive relaxation.
  • Letting go of what you cannot control.
  • Meditating.
  • Building and using a support system.

Lark can help with these and other stress management techniques, as well as the following (and more) aspects of self-care.

  • Simple tricks for sustained weight management.
  • Reducing added sugars, such as from soft drinks, fruit and coffee drinks, cakes, candy, and other desserts.
  • Increasing nutrient-rich foods, such as vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats, such as from fish, avocados, and olive oil.
  • Getting more, and higher-quality, sleep.
  • Being physically active.

Preventing Diabetes When You Have Stress

One in three American adults has prediabetes. Your chances of being one of them increase if you have high levels of stress or tend to make choices that can raise stress or blood sugar, such as eating a high-sugar diet or skimping on sleep. 

You can check your risk for prediabetes or diabetes in a minute with the CDC’s risk test or by asking your healthcare provider for a simple blood sugar test. You may be eligible for Lark’s Diabetes Prevention Program or Lark for Diabetes and get coaching on easy steps you can take to stay healthy and manage stress.

References

  1. Harris, Melissa L., Christopher Oldmeadow, Alexis Hure, Judy Luu, Deborah Loxton, and John Attia. 2017. “Stress Increases the Risk of Type 2 Diabetes Onset in Women: A 12-Year Longitudinal Study Using Causal Modelling.” PloS One 12 (2): e0172126.
  2.  Pan, K-Y, W. Xu, F. Mangialasche, L. Fratiglioni, and H-X Wang. 2017. “Work-Related Psychosocial Stress and the Risk of Type 2 Diabetes in Later Life.” Journal of Internal Medicine 281 (6): 601–10.
  3. Wellen, Kathryn E., and Gökhan S. Hotamisligil. 2005. “Inflammation, Stress, and Diabetes.” The Journal of Clinical Investigation 115 (5): 1111–19.
Author
Natalie Stein

Exercise, Fitness & Nutrition Expert | Lark Health