Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Stress and High Blood Sugar Levels

Stress is hard on your body-and can aggravate diabetes. Here's how to take control.

Researchers have linked dozens of physical symptoms to stress overload, from fatigue to weight gain. Add another symptom to that list: the risk for high blood sugar.

When you're stressed, your body is primed to take action. This "gearing up" is what causes your heart to beat faster, your breath to quicken, and your stomach to knot. It also triggers your blood sugar levels to skyrocket. "Under stress, your body goes into fight-or-flight mode, raising blood sugar levels to prepare you for action," says Richard Surwit, PhD, author of The Mind-Body Diabetes Revolution and chief of medical psychology at Duke University in Durham, NC. If your cells are insulin resistant, the sugar builds up in your blood, with nowhere to go. We have no shortage of short-term stress in our lives. We may get stuck in a traffic jam, wrangle with a worker at the department of motor vehicles, or put up with in-laws for the holidays.

It's easy to find out whether mental stress affects your glucose control. Before checking your glucose levels, write down a number rating your mental stress level on a scale of 1 to 10. Then write down your glucose level next to it. After a week or two, look for a pattern. Drawing a graph may help you see trends better. Do high stress levels often occur with high glucose levels, and low stress levels with low glucose levels? If so, stress may affect your glucose control.

There are many, many ways to teach yourself to handle stress better-and you can learn. It just comes down to making the commitment and taking the time to learn one (or more). One way to start on the road to low-stress living is to seek out a local stress-relief class, which are offered by many hospitals, YMCAs, and adult-education programs.

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