Regardless of who you are, these are stressful times. Threats always exist, but the pandemic and continued evidence of police brutality can make the simplest trip seem like a significant risk.
If you’ve got high blood sugar or diabetes, the risk is even greater. Extra stress can make it very difficult to keep blood sugar in check and successfully manage diabetes. So, how can we control blood sugar? Perhaps by limiting stress.
A new study is contributing evidence to the idea that stress worsens blood sugar control. It has to do with the effects of cortisol—a stress hormone—that leads to increases in blood sugar and decreases in insulin, a hormone that helps process sugar.
Cortisol production is part of the fight or flight response you experience when posed with a threat. When it’s released, it increases the amount of sugar in the bloodstream that can be used to react—to run away, fight—so your body has available energy.
It’s entirely natural for cortisol to be released in the body. It typically follows a cycle where levels are highest in the morning upon waking and lowest in the evening and night when it’s time for sleep.
But in people with diabetes, or those feeling a lot of stress, it’s not so simple. People with diabetes generally have higher levels of cortisol throughout the night, which can lead to poor sleep and a hard time adequately controlling blood sugar levels.
And the trouble doesn’t stop there. Eating is a known stress response. And guess what? People don’t reach for fruits and vegetables as a stress response. The foods are generally high sugar snacks that can make matters worse.
If unmanaged, high blood sugar can lead to some significant diabetic complications, including vision trouble, kidney disease, and heart disease.
Stress management may be an unsung hero for managing diabetes and controlling blood sugar, so looking into activities like exercise or mindfulness are recommended. Taking some time each day, particularly in the evening, for yourself to relax could be imperative to prevent dangerous diabetes-related conditions.