Can being stressed give you diabetes? Let’s hear it from the experts

Stress might be a mental health issue but it can affect your physical well-being as well.
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Diabetes and stress are interrelated. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Nikita Bhardwaj Updated: 30 Oct 2023, 16:12 pm IST
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You’re probably aware of the ill-effects of stress. But, did you know that it can also lead to diabetes? Yes, it’s absolutely true! Stress and diabetes are interlinked with one another.

In such a situation, it becomes important to define stress. It is a feeling of emotional or physical tension which can be triggered by any event that makes you feel anxious, frustrated or angry. How an individual’s body responds to these challenges plays an important role in deciding how the stress ends up affecting their health. 

“Stress can lead to diabetes in a predisposed individual (one who already has other risk factors for diabetes like a strong family history, obesity, sedentary lifestyle, etc.) and can also worsen glycemic control (blood sugar control) in those who already have diabetes,” said Dr Bhavik Saglani, Diabetes Health Physician and Consultant at Apollo Spectra Hospitals, Mumbai.

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We need to classify the relationship between diabetes and stress into:

Direct effect

Our body tries to manage blood sugar levels by maintaining a fine balance between two groups of hormones

i) Insulin which reduces blood sugar levels, 

ii) And a group of hormones (Cortisol, Adrenaline, Noradrenaline, Growth Hormone, etc ) which oppose the action of insulin

Stress causes an increase in this second group of counter-insulin hormones, leading to a rise in blood sugar levels. 

This mechanism may be of some benefit to people who do not have diabetes due to the adaptive benefit of ‘stress-induced energy mobilization’. For those who suffer from diabetes, however, this is counterproductive.

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“Prolonged high blood sugar level due to long-term stress can impair the pancreas’ ability to regulate insulin production,” said Dr Saglani.

Indirect effects

“Apart from its direct hormonal effect on one’s blood sugar levels, stress may lead to an irregular sleep cycle, erratic exercise schedule, binge eating, altered meal timings and an overall sense of demotivation to pursue a healthier lifestyle. All these factors will indirectly impact blood sugar control,” explained Dr Saglani.

Stress management is the only way out 

We understand that it is easier said than done. No one wants to be stressed but external factors which are not in our hands are the prime cause of it. Dr Saglani says, “The first step towards the management of stress and its effect on diabetes is to understand that you are not the only one who is finding it difficult to cope with stress and you must not be too harsh on yourself for being unable to do so.”

How to manage stress?

It is also important to assess whether the stress triggers are a daily occurrence (inability to wake up on time, finding it difficult to cope with work demands, relationship issues, an unruly boss, etc.), or due to a recent traumatic event (job loss, financial loss, death of a loved one, etc.). Understanding the reasons behind stress will help us develop relevant stress management strategies to counter these triggers.

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Steps to manage stress and keep blood sugar levels under control are simple yet effective. These steps can be:

  • Pursuing a hobby
  • Indulging in physical activity
  • Practising meditation
  • Developing a healthy social life with friends and family
  • Improving time management and organizational skills
  • Getting into a healthier sleep routine
  • Resolving disputes and conflicts
  • Seeking support from loved ones 

This, admittedly, is easier said than done and you may need to seek assistance from a healthcare professional.

In addition to this, it is important to consult your treating physician for better assistance.

“Physicians who manage diabetes need to ensure the in-clinic environment and the speed of consultation is ideal for the patient to feel comfortable to talk about their stress,” the doctor concluded.

Ladies, we know life is stressful but you need to manage it in order to stay healthy. Remember, nothing is more important than your health.

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About the Author

Six-pack abs are all that Nikita needs, along with her daily dose of green tea. At Health Shots, she produces videos, podcasts, stories, and other kick-ass content. ...Read More

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