Stress and Diabetes (cont.)

"Stress plays a more direct role in the control of blood sugar than it does in any other disease," Surwit tells WebMD. People with diabetes should stay conscious of eating well and exercising regularly. It's a good idea to check blood glucose levels more frequently when you're ill or under stress and to drink plenty of fluids as so as not to get dehydrated.

"A lot of patients can easily tell if their sugar is up by the way they feel or how much pressure they're currently under," says Paula Butler, chief of endocrinology and head of the diabetes program at Mt. Sinai hospital in Chicago. Butler frequently hears patients explain why their blood sugar is high when they come in for an appointment -- everything from a fight with a spouse to missing the bus that morning is fodder for a rise in the numbers.

Once you've pinpointed your stressors and notice which ones send your blood sugar levels soaring, you'll need to devise some ways to chill out. What helps keep stress under wraps? Anything that relaxes you.

  • Take up yoga, meditation, or deep breathing.
  • Try progressive relaxation therapy, in which you practice tensing and relaxing major muscle groups in sequence. A study published in the journal Diabetes Care showed that just five weekly sessions of a relaxation therapy can reduce blood sugar levels significantly.
  • Learn cognitive behavior therapy. In addition to learning to relax, this therapy helps you re-evaluate what is worthy of your aggravation in the first place by helping you change your behavior and teaching you to view life through more appropriately colored glasses, says Surwit.
  • Talk to a therapist. Talking about your problems is a reliable way to alleviate the stress that stems from them.
  • Step back from the situation. If you can, remove yourself from the stressor, says Butler.
  • Keep up your healthy eating and exercise routine. Exercise can help lower blood sugar, so a stressful phase is not the time to forgo the stair stepper.
  • Eliminate caffeine. Caffeine can impair your body's ability to handle sugar and increase the amount of stress hormones, which may increase blood sugars, says Surwit.
  • Ask your doctor about an anti-anxiety medication. It isn't ideal, but it can help during a crisis, says Butler.
  • Take up a relaxing hobby. If knitting or pottery calms you down, join a class or find a workshop. But if you stress over every imperfection in your project, save the hobby for a less stressed-out time, and take a hot bath instead.
Published Dec. 6, 2004.

SOURCES: Diabetes Care, January 2002; vol 25: pp 30-34. David Sledge, MD, medical director for diabetes management, Ochsner Clinic Foundation, Baton Rouge, La. Richard Surwit, PhD, vice chairman, department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, Duke University Medical Center. Paula Butler, MD, chief of endocrinology and head of the diabetes program, Mt. Sinai Hospital, Chicago.


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