Can Stress Cause Diabetes?

The word diabetes under a magnifying glass

Have you ever asked yourself the question, "Can stress cause diabetes?" If you have, you are not alone. With the rise of the incidence of Type 2 diabetes, and the stressful lifestyle that has become the norm for many individuals, it is natural to wonder if the two are somehow connected.

Can Stress Cause Diabetes?

The simple answer to the question of whether or not stress can cause diabetes is - no, stress is not a direct cause of diabetes. However, according to the European Depression in Diabetes Research Consortium, stress can increase your chances of developing the disease and it exacerbates the symptoms if you already have diabetes.

Over the years, medical researchers have studied the association between stress and diabetes and have come to the conclusion that stress does not cause diabetes, but there is a connection between the two. Based on a number of different studies, researchers found that stress has a direct effect on the body's blood sugar level causing it to become elevated. The rise in the blood sugar level is part of the body's natural response to stress known as the fight or flight response.

Fight or Flight Response and Blood Sugar Levels

When your body senses danger, it automatically goes into the fight or flight reaction mode. When this occurs, changes take place within the body as it gets ready to do battle or flee from the perceived threat.

One of the changes that take place is the creation of energy as glucose, fat and fatty cells from the liver are metabolized. To keep up with the high amounts of energy needed for the fight or flight response, your body releases stress hormones. The job of the stress hormones, such as cortisol and epinephrine, is to raise the body's blood sugar levels and keep them elevated so there is enough glucose to convert to the energy needed to handle the perceived threat or stress.

The rise in the body's blood sugar level takes place under all types of stress whether it is:

  • Emotional
  • Physical
  • Acute
  • Chronic
  • Real
  • Imagined

Diabetes and Stress

When a person has diabetes, his or her body still reacts to stress in the same way. However, because of the diabetes their body does not have the ability to control the increase in blood sugar the same way as a person that is not diabetic.

In the case of chronic stress, the body remains in a heightened state of arousal for extended periods. It is not able to relax and blood sugar levels remain high. When blood sugar levels remain elevated, a diabetic has a much higher risk of suffering from:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Strokes
  • Heart attacks

Reducing Your Stress Level

Learning different ways to reduce your stress level is important for everyone. There are many stress reduction techniques and methods that you can learn to help reduce stress and anxiety. Examples of these include:

Some people choose to take up a relaxing hobby, enjoy their favorite relaxing music or sit and watch the gentle waves at a beach. You may have to try different methods of relaxing, but once you find the ones that work for you, you will lower your stress levels and feel healthier and happier.

Talk to Your Doctor

Diabetes is a serious medical condition that requires attention. If you are diabetic, or think that you may be developing the disease, it is imperative that you contact your doctor as soon as possible.

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Can Stress Cause Diabetes?