How stress can affect blood glucose levels
When thinking about how to control our blood glucose level, the focus is mainly on diet and exercise. But stress can have a major impact on our blood glucose levels, and evidence links it to a rise in HbA1c levels. On the other hand, dealing with Type 2 Diabetes can also cause stress, with research finding that people with diabetes are 2 to 3 times more likely to have depression than people without diabetes.
According to the World Health Organisation, stress is defined as: ‘Any type of change that causes physical, emotional or psychological strain. It is your body’s response to anything that requires attention or action.’
Our body releases a hormone called cortisol from the adrenal glands when we feel frightened or stressed. This cortisol then increases blood glucose levels, in theory, to help us get away from ‘danger’, triggered by the ‘fight or flight’ response.
This is a natural response to stress, but if the cortisol levels stay high, it can cause strong cravings for high carbohydrate foods, mood swings, high blood pressure, an elevated heart rate, high blood glucose levels and weight gain.
For Type 2 Diabetics, a blood glucose spike caused by stress can become challenging as it is harder to recover to a normal blood glucose level than an individual without diabetes. These constant high blood glucose levels can increase the risk of diabetes complications such as retinopathy, foot or nerve problems.
Therefore, managing stress levels is vital to helping to control blood glucose levels and can help prevent any further progression of Type 2 Diabetes. Our MySugarWatch continuous glucose monitor can help you identify your glucose spikes throughout the day, and our team of coaches can then help you to control these and manage your stress levels.
Diabetes UK (2022) Complications of Diabetes. Available at: https://www.diabetes.org.uk/guide-to- diabetes/complications (Accessed on 21 November 2022).
Eren I, Erdi O and Ozcankaya R (2003) ‘Relationship Between Blood Glucose Control and Psychiatric Disorders in Type 2 Diabetic Patients’, Turkish Journal of Psychiatry, 14(3), pp. 184-91. Naylor C, Parsonage M, McDaid D, Knapp M, Fossy M and Galea A (2012) ‘Long-Term Conditions and Mental Health – The Cost of Co-Morbidities’, London: The King’s Fund & Centre for Mental Health, pp. 1-32.
World Health Organisation (2021) Stress. Available at: https://www.who.int/news-room/questions- and-answers/item/stress (Accessed on 21 November 2022)
Zamani-Alavijeh F, Araban M, Koohestani HR and Karimy M (2018) ‘The Effectiveness of Stress Management Training on Blood Glucose Control in patients with Type 2 Diabetes’, Diabetology & Metabolic Syndrome’, 39(2018).