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
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.
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.
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Treating Diabetes And Mental Confusion Irrational Behavior
Just as it is for other effects of diabetes, prevention is the primary way to manage the behavioral effects of diabetes. Following the plan set by your doctor and, ideally, the diabetes care team is important. Regular blood sugar monitoring, proper nutrition, exercise, healthy weight maintenance, and stress management are crucial in controlling blood sugar levels. This, in turn, has a positive effect on the brain.
Ways To Reduce Mental Stress3
- Learn how to relax during stressful moments by using deep-breathing exercises.
- Evaluate your schedule to find how to make changes to relieve stress.
- Exercise regularly and take regular outdoor walks to experience nature, which generally has a soothing effect on the body and soul.
It is important to understand what stress is and how it effects your body. By identfiying and actively finding healthy ways to overcome your stress triggers, you can help to improve your diabetes management.
References1. Glucerna.How Stress Affects Blood Sugar Levels 2020. Abbott Laboratories. Available at: https://glucerna.com/why-glucerna/how-stress-affects-blood-sugar-levels..2. Diabetes UK. Stress And Blood Glucose-Levels.2019. Diabetes Digital Media. Available at: https://www.diabetes.co.uk/stress-and-blood-glucose-levels.html .3. Mind Organisation. Stress. 1st ed. London: Mind publications, p.1-15. 2017. Available at: https://www.mind.org.uk/media-a/2959/stress-2017.pdf .
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Top 5 Best Blood Sugar Supplements To Manage Diabetes Reviewedyour Browser Indicates If You’ve Visited This Link
Type 2 diabetes is a precursor to a whole list of complications that are mostly ignored by people until the consequences start getting out of hand. It is important to be vigilant about your bloodsugar levels if you have been termed as diabetic by your doctor or if you lie in the pre-diabetic range.
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Follow These Steps To Find Out If Your Blood Sugar Levels Are Affected By Mental Stress:
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Can Anxiety Mimic Diabetes
Since anxiety and diabetes have quite similar symptoms, anxiety can actually mimic diabetes.
Anxiety can be psychological or due to changes in blood sugar levels either hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia.
To determine if anxiety is mimicking diabetes, you can look closely at the symptoms. Anxiety and panic attack symptoms persist, whereas blood glucose levels fluctuate.
What Causes Blood Sugar To Rise Without Eating
For the most part, food as you gathered from above, is the main driver for rises in blood sugar. However, life as you know is never a straight line.
There are other factors that can cause blood sugar to rise without eating. Some of that has to do with inter-play of hormones.
Stress hormones like cortisol, catecholamines , mobilize glucose from the stored glucose in the liver. Glycogen is the stored form of glucose in the liver.
These hormones cause a rise in blood sugar without eating both in diabetics and non-diabetics. Any thing that causes stress to your body will cause your blood sugar to rise.
Prescription and some over-the-counter medications like nasal decongestants can also cause your blood sugar to rise without eating.
Below are some of the causes of high blood sugar without eating:
- Steroid medication
- Diuretics pills that make you pee
- Nasal decongestants containing phenylephrine or pseoudoephedrine
- Poor sleep
As you tell from the above list, yes, stress can cause high blood sugar in non-diabetics. Stress from whatever origin has the potential to increase cortisol levels in the blood.
And as I explained earlier anything that causes liver cells to mobilize their glycogen stores unnecessarily will raise your blood sugar. Stress will do just that.
Should non-diabetics check blood sugar?
And Guess what
So, yes, my advice is that non-diabetics can test for blood sugar, if you are looking for some guidance on the matter.
Suggested further reading:
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What Are The Symptoms Of Stress
Sometimes, the symptoms of stress are subtle and you may not notice them. Stress can take a toll on your mental and emotional well-being, and it can also impact your physical health. Recognizing the symptoms can help you identify stress and take steps to manage it.
If youre stressed, you may experience:
Its possible to lessen or limit the stressors in your life. Here are a few things that you can do to manage the effects of different forms of stress.
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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If Possible Eliminate Long
McIntyre says that too much stress can be a warning that something needs to change. Since long-term stressors affect your long-term blood sugar levels and can cause damage to your overall health, theyre even more worthy of a reevaluation. Is it your job thats tipping you over the edge? If so, he suggests that you have a conversation with your boss on how to improve your work environment, apply for a transfer, or even start the hunt for a new job.
Stress Affects The Immune System
Chronic stress may also affect the immune system.
In one study, researchers noticed that a particular immune system response to chronic stress is a similar response to one that is involved in the development of type 2 diabetes.
To determine if stressful events are causing an increase in blood sugar, people can measure their blood glucose throughout the day. They should note how they are feeling and when they last ate.
People can then show their readings to their doctor for analysis.
If the doctor notices that stress may be affecting blood sugar, they can explore different techniques to help a person control their stress levels.
The American Diabetes Association recommend that people with diabetes take care of their mind just as much as they do their body.
Stress can be both a contributor to diabetes and a consequence of it. However, there are many effective ways to relieve stress.
The strategy that works best for one person may be different for the next person. Exploring different options can help a person find the strategy that works best for them.
A 2018 study that took place in a clinic in Iran found that taking part in social-related stress management training could improve blood sugar control in people with diabetes. Stress management techniques may help people manage their glycated hemoglobin levels.
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What Are Symptoms Of High Blood Sugar
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Managing Blood Sugars Increases The Risk Of Anxiety
According to the findings from the 2006 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, people with diabetes had a 20 percent higher prevalence of lifetime diagnosis of anxiety than those without. A complementary 2013 meta-analysis, featuring a total of twelve studies with data for 12,626 people with diabetes, supports that diabetes is associated with an increased likelihood of having anxiety disorders and elevated anxiety symptoms.
Diabetes may provoke anxiety related to:
- Anticipating a diagnosis. Some people have anxiety before a definitive diagnosis.
- Managing the condition itself. Anxiety may be triggered by specific fears associated with managing diabetes, including the risks of hypoglycemia or developing complications, including neuropathy and chronic kidney disease.
- Worrying about judgment from others. Some people may be worried about what others think, which may result to noncompliance to diabetes management i.e. avoiding insulin injections in public or altogether.
Managing Diabetes with Confidence
If feeling anxious about managing diabetes, seek out the support from family members and friends and consult with a primary care provider, dietitian, diabetes educator, and other interdisciplinary team members as needed.
Their provision of care can not only help identify methods to control blood sugars, but instill confidence to do so and disseminate the risk of anxiousness surrounding the condition.
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The Effect Of Stress On Blood Sugar
Stress triggers an increase in the body’s levels of the fight-or-flight hormone cortisol, as if you were under attack, explains Roger McIntyre, MD, professor of psychiatry and pharmacology at the University of Toronto in Canada. In response, the body releases extra energy into the bloodstream in the form of glucose.
When chronically heightened, cortisol works against glucose control even in people who dont have diabetes, Dr. McIntyre says. Yet people with diabetes are unable to properly process and store that glucose because of insulin resistance, meaning that glucose accumulates even more in their blood in times of stress.
Everyone gets stressed out at times, but its important to understand that theres a difference between short-term and long-term stress, he says. While lifes inevitable acute stressors getting stuck in traffic, bickering with a family member cause a temporary rise in blood sugar, its the factors that can lead to chronic stress, such as an unhappy marriage, a cruel boss, or the COVID-19 quarantine, that can cause serious damage.
Diabetes is even considered to be an independent factor in the development of depression, according an analysis published in June 2019 in Preventive Medicine Reviews. That means that if you take two otherwise identical people, the one with diabetes is significantly more likely to struggle with depression.
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Stress Affects Your Blood Pressure
Letâs go back to the hormone cortisol for a moment. Another one of cortisolâs functions is to narrow the arteries throughout the body in order to allow blood to pump harder and faster through the rest of the body. In fight-or-flight situations, this is advantageous because delivery of oxygenated blood throughout the body.However, constant stress over time keeps the blood vessels constricted and keeps your blood pressure high. Over time this high blood pressure can worsen many of the complications of diabetes, including diabetic eye disease and kidney disease. In fact, many people with diabetes eventually develop high blood pressure.It is no wonder that diabetes and hypertension often go hand-in-hand. Looking out for one can help prevent or alleviate the other.
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Are Some People More Prone To Anxiety Than Others
Thats a difficult question, and theres no one correct answer.
Generally, both physical and psychological factors cause everyone to react to stress differently.
For example, genetics can play a role. Some genes that control the stress response may go into overdrive while for other people, they are under reactive.
Those who experience traumatic life events or are survivors of abuse may be more vulnerable to stress.
Still others may have a combination of factors.
Learn How To Deal With High Blood Sugar Levels
Be sure to know the steps for dealing with high blood sugar and how fast your insulin medicine will work to bring your blood sugar down. Some insulins work very fast while regular insulin takes a little longer to bring the sugar level down. Knowing how fast your insulin works will keep you from using too much too quickly.
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What Increases My Risk For Nondiabetic Hyperglycemia
- A medical condition such as Cushing syndrome or polycystic ovarian syndrome
- Surgery or trauma, such as a burn or injury
- Infections, such as pneumonia or a urinary tract infection
- Certain medicines, such as steroids or diuretics
- Nutrition given through a feeding tube or IV
- A family history of diabetes or gestational diabetes
- Obesity or a lack of physical activity
So What Causes High Blood Sugar Levels In Non
Now that you know the dynamics of food digestion, glucose absorption into blood circulation and the expected insulin response, explaining what causes high blood sugar in non-diabetics becomes logical.
So, here it goes:
If you have a fully functioning beta cells in your pancreas that produce, store, and release insulin in response to blood sugar rises when you eat, then a quick response is expected to regulate blood sugar. This quick response prevents unnecessary blood glucose fluctuations.
And this process of blood sugar correction works so efficiently that within an hour and half of eating, your blood sugar levels should return to the fasting blood sugar levels of below 100mg/dl .
In fact, at 2 hours after-meal, both the first phase and second phase insulin release from the beta cells should have your blood sugar levels down to 80mg/dl .
However, if your First phase insulin response and more importantly, your Second phase insulin release is defective or sluggish for whatever reason, then you will have high blood sugar level even if you are non-diabetic. This is actually referred to as Impaired Glucose Tolerance.
Persistent impaired glucose tolerance is actually pre-diabetes.
Impaired glucose tolerance precedes Type 2 diabetes. If your blood sugar level remains high despite your first and second phase insulin release best efforts, such that it hits 200mg/dl 2 hours after eating, then by definition, you are now diabetic.
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Low Blood Sugar Mimics Anxiety
The mutual symptoms of low blood sugar and anxiety are not coincidental. There is a shared physiological base of the two conditions.
When low blood sugar occurs, the body attempts to normalize levels by bringing blood glucose up. It does this through epinephrine excretion, which triggers glucose production in the liver.
Increased adrenaline levels, however, trigger a “fight or flight” response in the body. This same biochemical process is also linked to anxiety.
A longer-term or chronic low blood sugar state can also cause the body to produce cortisol, which is the “stress hormone.” Cortisol helps tissues in the body be less reactive to insulin, which helps increase glucose circulation in the bloodstream.
While this may help raise and normalize blood sugar levels, higher cortisol levels are also linked to anxiety. For this reason, many of the warning signs and symptoms of low blood sugar are shared with that of anxiety.
Scary Movies Work Stress And Trauma Of Any Kind All Cause Your Liver To Release Stored Glucose To Support Natural ‘fight Or Flight’ Responses
Last weekend I decided to stay up late and watch a scary movie. It had something to do with super-gross vampires who get their jollies by eating the flesh of unsuspecting hotel guests.
Anyway, after the final gut-wrenching, heart-pumping scene, I decided to check my blood sugar. Ill be darned it had risen about 200 mg/dL during the movie. With blood that sweet, I felt like the grand prize for any vampires that might happen to be lurking in my neighborhood.
As you may be aware, the liver serves as a storehouse for glucose, keeping it in a concentrated form called glycogen. The liver breaks down small amounts of glycogen all the time, releasing glucose into the bloodstream to nourish the brain, nerves, heart and other always active organs.
The livers release of glucose depends largely on the presence of certain hormones. Of all the hormones in the body, only insulin causes the liver to take sugar out of the bloodstream and store it in the form of glycogen. All the other hormonesincluding stress hormones, sex hormones, growth hormones and glucagoncause the liver to secrete glucose back into the bloodstream.
Anxious moments and nerve-racking situations happen to all of us. From speaking in public to test-taking to a simple visit to the doctor or dentist, many events elicit a stress hormone response that causes, among other things, a sharp blood sugar rise.
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