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It is generally accepted that stress is bad for a person both mentally and physically. This is true when it comes to a range of conditions, including diabetes. When a person is under stress, hormones in his body trigger a rise in blood sugar. This is the body's way of preparing itself for extra exertion caused by stress. Unfortunately, a diabetic’s body cannot control the sugar rise as well as it should, and stress may contribute to blood sugar levels that are high enough to become dangerous.
The relationship between stress and diabetes is due, in part, to the effect of stress on hormones in the patient’s body. When a person is under stress, hormones called cortisol and epinephrine act on the body to increase energy. They do this by raising blood sugar levels temporarily. This rise in blood sugar can affect anyone who is under stress, however, not just people who have been diagnosed with diabetes.
The relationship between stress and diabetes can be a dangerous one. While stress can cause anyone’s blood sugar to rise, it can be worse in diabetics, as their bodies are not able to effectively counteract the rise in blood sugar. Unfortunately, stress levels can rise because of a wide variety of factors, many of which may be out of the patient’s control. For example, a person may experience emotional and physical stress in response to overexertion and illness.
While the relationship between short-term stress and diabetes can cause temporary blood sugar increases, long-term stresses may expose a person to on-going problems with diabetes. For example, if a person is suffering from depression, his stress levels may remain consistently high. As a result, the patient may have a more difficult time managing his blood sugar. Additionally, stress can lead to other health problems, which may cause additional stress for the patient and contribute even more to blood sugar elevation.
Some of the relationship between stress and diabetes is beyond a diabetic’s control, but there are some ways that stress may interfere with things the patient can control. For example, a person who is dealing with depression may feel less motivated to be careful with his diet. He may eat things that are bad for him in an effort to feel relief from stress and depression. He may even stop exercising, which can be detrimental for controlling diabetes, because he feels less motivated or disinterested in the things he used to consider important.