Whilst still in the theoretical phase, studies and compelling arguments show that stress has a direct link in inducing diabetes. Stress may only be a pathway to diabetes, although chronic stress has been proven to have serious effects on both your mental and physical health, leading to a number of issues that may contribute to type 2 diabetes.
Studies have shown that when the body is under physical stress it can cause your blood sugar levels to increase, which in the long term may contribute to type 2 diabetes.
There are various studies that have been completed, as well as a few still in trial, that are proving a link to stress being a contributing factor in diabetes development.
In Sweden, completed studies suggest that men between the ages of 40 – 60 years of age who have permanent stress in their lives due to work or lifestyle choices are up to 45% more likely to develop diabetes.
Cortisol and Epinephrine – Two Stress Hormones
In stressful situations the two main stress hormones, cortisol and epinephrine, kick into gear, as one of their main duties are to raise the blood sugar levels in the body to increase energy availability – to fuel the fight or flight response.
These hormones can alter the body’s sensitivity to insulin which may not only be a risk factor for diabetes but which some posit could be the root cause.
A study being conducted on war veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan who show symptoms of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) has shown that these subjects have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Whilst still in the early stages of research these findings are making a stronger link between stress and diabetes.
An Australian study over a 7 year period indicates that people can have stress induced hyperglycemia without having diabetes. This is most likely caused by the stress inducing hormones raising the blood sugar levels creating adrenaline, which is our fight or flight mechanism.
These cases have been recorded over the period from 2004 – 2007 in the ICU (intensive care unit) which cares for patients that come into the hospital critically ill.
These patients have come in to the hospital with no previous signs, symptoms or diagnosis of diabetes and go back to having normal glucose levels following the treatment of the illness that they came in with.
However, this stress then places them at a higher risk of developing diabetes later in their lives. The study showed that 17% of ICU admissions were diagnosed with stress induced hyperglycemia with the peak range being between 50 – 59 years of age.
Stress Affecting a Broader Demographic
Stress is now becoming a concern in people at younger ages more than ever before. People below the ages of 18 have been found to be stressed due to a number of different things including lack of sleep and being worried over tests, exams and even home work. These stresses are putting younger people at a higher risk of developing diabetes later in life.
Making changes to your lifestyle is the best way to de-stress your life. There are two aspects to reducing stress. First, remove or avoid, as much as possible, the people or situations that trigger your stress.
If there are aspects in your life that make you stressed you need to change them as they can be detrimental to your health and wellbeing. This may need life-changing decisions to be carried out.
Starting with small things like organization of bills or your route to work in peak hour traffic can be a good start. Filing your bills into categories to know when they are to be paid or have been paid can make your life less stressful and easier whilst finding an alternative route to work with less traffic could help with the stress of being late or getting road rage.
Second, learn to manage your stress. This doesn’t imply simply ‘getting over it’. It means learning and using a range of techniques that help prevent you subconsciously responding to potential triggers and stressors, which will short-circuit your stress response.
If you are not coping well with stress it is best to see a healthcare professional, who can advise options for better stress management.