Fill Your Doctor In On Big Life Changes
If a stressful situation is causing your blood sugar to swing, your healthcare team needs to know. Says Campbell, Your doctor may temporarily change your diabetes medication or put you on a higher dose. If necessary, he or she can even make a referral to a mental health professional. Right now, increasingly more primary care physicians, psychologists, and other healthcare professionals are offering telehealth services so that you can get the help you need while maintaining social distancing practices.
Recharge Your Batteries By Getting A Good Nights Sleep
Plenty of research shows that lack of adequate sleep can lead to emotional strain for example, a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience shows that sleep deprivation is a contributing factor to anxiety disorders. Whats more, poor sleep may cause blood sugar levels to swing: In a large study published in Diabetes Care, people with type 2 diabetes who slept less than 4.5 hours per night had higher blood sugar levels than those who slept 6.5 to just over 7 hours a night. Sleeping too much was also associated with higher blood sugar. Getting enough sleep can help your diabetes management, Campbell says. If youre not sleeping well at night, discuss the matter with your doctor.
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Can Stress Affect Blood Sugar Levels
Managing diabetes alone can be stressful and always staying within the normal range is always a big thing. But can stress affect blood sugar levels? Yes they do, and it is vital as a patient to learn how to manage it. I know we already have a lot to do in our lives and even small things like a traffic jam or running late can make our stress meter touch the other end of the dial. But since these stress hormones affect the glucose levels directly, it is essential that it be controlled.Can Stress Affect Blood Sugar? If So, How?
77 percent of people experience stress that affects their physical health.
There are two kinds of stress that can cause the blood sugars to rise.
- Physical Stress
When we talk about physical stress, it refers to:
Physical stress generally causes the blood sugar levels to rise.
On the other hand, mental stress causes mixed emotions and effects, depending on the type of diabetes that that patient is diagnosed with.
- For Type 1 Diabetes Mental stress tends to either increase or decrease the sugar levels in the body.
- For Type 2 Diabetes Mental stress only increases the blood sugar levels.
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How Stress Affects Blood Sugar Levels
Two types of stress can change blood sugar levels:
- Physical stress
- Mental or emotional stress
Each type of stress affects blood sugar levels differently. Physical stress generally causes blood sugar levels to increase. Physical stress includes:
Mental or emotional stress has mixed effects, depending on the type of diabetes you have:
- Type 1 diabetes: Mental stress can increase or decrease blood sugar levels.
- Type 2 diabetes: Mental stress generally increases blood sugar levels.
Stress also can affect your blood sugar levels indirectly by causing you to forget about your regular diabetes care routine. When you’re stressed out, you might:
- Exercise more or less
- Not test your blood sugar level as often
- Forget or delay a dose of medication and/or insulin
Emotional Stress May Cause A Rise In Glucose Levels
We are mostly aware of physical stress and how to manage it. Emotional stress is more complicated to detect and so more difficult to manage. Feelings like fear, anxiety, anger and excitement all cause the body to secrete stress hormones into the bloodstream, to help prepare the body for the so-called fight-or-flight response. When the body is under stress, the adrenal glands become enlarged and produce two hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline. While the main role of noradrenaline is to prevent blood pressure from falling, adrenaline is an important blood glucose regulating substance1. Raising blood glucose is important in stressful situations, as the body prepares itself for a lot of physical and mental activity. The release of adrenaline helps achieve this and, combined with the increase in blood pressure, ensures the supply of oxygen and glucose to all parts of the body².
For people who do not have diabetes, the body releases insulin to reduce high blood glucose levels. However, for people with diabetes, stress may contribute to increase blood glucose levels for many days, weeks or months.
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The Mental Vicious Circle
Beyond the pure physical impact of stress, theres a confounding mental element: If you are stressed out, your mental bandwidth to deal with complex tasks is reduced. You are less organized, energetic and motivated. So naturally, this impacts diabetes control. When people get stressed out, theyre more likely to eat heavy comfort foods, skip difficult tasks or medications, and to basically ignore their diabetes. This is even more significant when it comes to stresss first cousin: Depression.
Depressions negative effect on diabetes control is well-documented, and deadly serious.
Theres a big difference between being stressed or burnt out, and being clinically depressed, according to Dr. Bill Polonsky, founder of the Behavioral Diabetes Institute, in this article on mental health and diabetes.
Depression is a clinically diagnosed or diagnosable medical condition, whereas experiencing stress is not. He explains:
Still, everyday stress on its own can certainly derail your diabetes management, and research shows it can even weaken your immune system.
When Stress Strikes Closely Monitor Your Blood Sugar
When youre stressed, you should be monitoring and checking your sugars to see if the stress is having an effect or not, Dr. Belfort De Aguiar says. Simply being aware that stressful situations can affect blood sugar can prepare you to make adjustments. When youre under a lot of stress, thats when you want to be really on top of your blood sugar, Campbell says. Its the time to hone your self-care behaviors.
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Keeping Your Blood Sugar Under Control During Anxiety: Raleigh Medical Group Can Help
This is a team effort.
Dont feel you have to go it alone.
For decades weve been the provider of choice in the Raleigh, Cary and Triangle areas. Our experienced, compassionate physicians and health care team are ready to guide you toward the healthiest life possible.
Scheduling an appointment is easyand now we even offer convenient telehealth appointments.
Dont let stress ruin your health. Contact us today.
What Is Cortisol
This hormone is often discussed in a negative light because too much of it can be a sign that your body is under severe mental or physical stress, and is associated with inflammation and weight gain.
While its primary role is to help your body manage stress, it also affects nearly every organ in your body and is something your body needs 24 hours a day to stay alive.
Without cortisol, you wouldnt be able to climb a flight of stairs let alone endure the intense stress from losing a loved one, going through a divorce, or having surgery.
- Breakdown sugar to be used for energy
- Manage how your body metabolizes protein, carbohydrates, and fat
Just like your insulin needs change based on what youre doing and eating, your bodys cortisol production must precisely match your needs during any given moment, too.
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What You Can Do
There are several things you can do that can decrease cortisol levels, decrease the perception of stress, and lower blood sugar levels. All it takes is learning a few stress management techniques such as relaxation exercises. These can help both diabetics and non-diabetics have a decrease in blood sugar.
A recent study out of Duke University looked at a hundred individuals with elevated blood sugar levels. The participants partook in 5 education classes on diabetes and some also learned stress management techniques. After one year, more than 50 percent of those who learned about stress relief improved their levels of blood sugar to a degree that they were able to decrease their chances of having vision problems, kidney disease, neuropathy, and heart disease so typical of uncontrolled diabetes.
The study participants were able to decrease their stress levels by partaking in relaxation exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, positive mental imagery exercises, deep breathing exercises, and thought-stopping techniques. They sometimes used CDs or DVDs to guide them through stress-reduction therapies.
Fortunately for diabetics, there are numerous ways to learn how to better handle the stress in your life. You simply need to commit yourself to learning stress-reduction techniques and practice it daily. You can take a class in stress reduction, which can be sponsored by health clubs, hospitals, and the YMCA.
Stress Impacts Sleep Which Impairs Glucose Tolerance
Often times, stress leaves us tense and anxious and can cause sleep problem. Many studies have shown the negative health impacts of not getting enough sleep. The impact on diabetes is no exception.
Although everyone has their own standards of what good sleep is, keep in mind that sleeping less than six hours a night has also been found to contribute to impaired glucose tolerance, a condition that often precedes or can worsen the progress of type 2 diabetes.Add to this, the fact people who are tired tend to eat more because they want to get energy from somewhere. This is usually by consuming sugar or other foods that can spike blood sugar levels, further aggravating their diabetes.
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Normal Blood Sugar Levels Chart
Every substance present in our body has an optimum level. Above or below that specific range, that particular substance is harmful to our health. And so is sugar. There is a certain range of blood sugar which is considered as standard for almost all age. However, there might be some changes in the level considering different factors like age and other co-morbidities. Lets look at the chart:
Sometimes, random blood is also taken. In this case, the glucose level of 200 mg/dl is considered a diabetic condition.
Going through the chart you will notice certain terms regarding blood sugar which you need to understand in order to evaluate your own glucose level. So, I will just give a small brief regarding those:
- Fasting blood glucose: Here, blood sugar is tested after abstaining from food and drink for at least 8 hours.
- Postprandial blood sugar:In this case, blood sugar is tested 2 hours after a meal to access if its at the optimum level after having a meal or not.
- Random blood glucose: Blood is tested at any time of the day.
- HbA1c: It refers to a blood test which is done to evaluate the average level of blood glucose over the past 3 months. HbA1c is also known as glycosylated haemoglobin or A1C. Moreover, fasting is not required before carrying out the test.
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Seek Support In Reducing Stress
Living with type 2 diabetes can be intrinsically stressful. Called diabetes burnout, overwhelm and fatigue caused by blood sugar testing, carb-counting, insulin administration, doctor visits, and other facets of diabetes management can negatively affect both physical and emotional health, according to the ADA.
Take advantage of your support circle. A family member, friend, or other source of support who will listen to you can make a big difference in the way you manage stress, Campbell says, adding, You can also talk to a counselor or join an online support community. The ADA recommends diabetes support groups as a way to connect with people who understand what youre going through and to share management and coping advice. Check out The ADA Mental Health Provider Referral Directory to find nearby groups that, when the pandemic is over, you can join in person.
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How To Cope With Stress
Everyone copes with stressful situations in different ways. If you want to change the way you react so things feel easier, try the Stress Manager tool on our Learning Zone. Answer questions on how you deal with the demands of managing your condition to get a plan of action to help you simplify stressful situations.
Look after yourself
At times of stress, its even more important to remember to look after yourself and treat yourself kindly.
But we know its not always as easy as that. If youre extra busy at work or looking after family then forgetting to eat or take medication can happen.
Its important to get a balance between looking after yourself without putting too much pressure on yourself to do everything perfectly. This can add or lead to stress. But its good to be aware of how easy it can be to give into the habit of letting diabetes self-care slip in times of stress.
Getting enough sleep and building exercise, rest and relaxation time into your routine helps some people cope better with stress.
“When things get hard, I usually go into self-care over drive. If too many hypos are throwing me off, I’ll hole up on the sofa with blankets and some trashy TV to make me feel better.”
Laura, who has type 1 diabetes – read Laura’s story
And you dont need us to tell you that turning to comfort food will raise your blood sugar and make you feel worse. Similarly, drinking more alcohol will affect your blood sugar levels.
Talk to others
Preventing Low Blood Sugar
For someone with diabetes, the best way to prevent low blood sugar is to check your blood sugar often. You can check your blood sugar with a continuous glucose monitor or glucometer. Discuss with your healthcare provider how often you should be checking your blood sugar.
Your healthcare provider might suggest checking before and after meals, before and after exercising, when changing your routine or schedule, when traveling across time zones, and more. By checking your blood sugar, you can identify when your sugar is falling and enact steps to normalize your levels.
For people both with and without diabetes, another tried-and-true way to prevent low blood sugar is to eat regular meals. Avoid skipping meals or fasting. When you do eat, research indicates that eating a diet low in refined carbohydrates, and inclusive of omega-3 fats and adequate protein, can help regulate blood sugar and lower anxiety levels.
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Keep A Close Eye On Your Blood Sugar Levels
Its always important to keep tabs on your stress and blood sugar. Thats why we recommend a fasting blood sugar test at every yearly physical.If your blood sugar starts to creep upwards, we can be proactive and start measures to help you.
This is particularly important if you have diabetes or prediabetes. In fact, if you have these conditions, we may suggest that you have blood sugar screenings more often. We can guide you through when you should check your blood sugar, and our dietitian can help you select healthy meals.
The Symptoms Of Stress
Stress can manifest differently in one person from the next. For some, positive or negative stress may produce immediate tears, for example. In others, it may cause them to be silent and speechless. And others may become easily angry and irritable.
Depending on the severity of the stress level, your symptoms can vary. Here are some examples of stress symptoms:
Mild to moderate stress
- panic attacks
Research suggests that stress also can bring on or worsen certain symptoms or diseases. Stress is linked to 6 of the leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver, and suicide.
Before we move on to how stress can affect your blood sugar and what you can do to reduce stress, lets take a closer look at the hormones involved in a stress reaction.
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How Can Stress Affect Diabetes
At the dawn of time, our ancestors lived in a world of danger. When they were attacked by cave bears, it was a bad idea to stay calm. So whenever they saw danger, their brains sounded a stress alarm that put their bodies into action.
This ability to feel stress got passed down to us in the modern age. The problem is that our brains cant tell the difference between physical danger and social or emotional danger, so they all stress us out in the same way. So today, although bear attacks are less common, stress is a much larger part of our lives. In 2018, a Gallup poll found that 55% of Americans felt stress during a lot of the day, while 45% said they felt worried a lot when asked about how they felt the previous day
Stress can still be helpful when it helps us take on challenges, provided that we get some rest afterward. But when stress lasts for a long time, without giving us a chance to rest, it can do serious damage to our bodies. It can increase our risk for diabetes, or make our current diabetes worse.
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How Does Stress Work
When the brain senses danger, it releases stress hormones that get the body ready for action. Blood sugar rises, to give the body extra fuel. This gives us a burst of energy that ends when the danger goes away.
But when stress lasts for a long time, and the body isnt given a chance to rest, the brain stays in a constant state of alarm, so it keeps producing stress hormones that keep raising blood sugar. This is great for a short burst of energy, but constantly high blood sugar is toxic and leads to diabetes symptoms.
Stress also increases insulin resistance, which makes our bodies less able to reduce blood sugar. And to top it all off, stress might encourage us to try to relax with unhealthy habits like smoking, eating high-calorie foods, or isolating ourselves, which can worsen diabetes and make us even more stressed in the long run.
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