Stress can cause a wide range of health problems, both physical and psychological. It can also make many diseases and conditions worse.
What about diabetes – can stress make it worse? The short answer is yes, and this is the case for many diabetics. Let’s take a closer look at how stress can impact this condition.
Stress Activates the Fat Cells
Stress causes increased production of cortisol. In turn, cortisol causes fat cells to produce an enzyme that relocates fat cells from all over the body to the abdomen.
This fat is also called visceral fat and in excessive amounts, it can worsen diabetes. Studies have repeatedly found that the excess amounts of visceral fat can also put you at a higher risk of contracting heart disease and developing diabetes if you’re pre-diabetic.
To make things worse, a high level of cortisol can also increase the feeling of hunger. Overeating creates more fat and then the cortisol causes it to get stored around your waist.
Stress Causes Sleep Problems
Stress can also cause sleep problems which can accelerate the progress of diabetes. People dealing with a lot of stress can’t easily get a good night’s sleep.
While the right amount of sleep varies from person to person, sleeping less than 6 hours a night can decrease your tolerance to blood sugar. When your blood sugar tolerance plummets, you’re more susceptible to dangerous blood sugar spikes, especially when you consume processed sugar and carbs.
Stress Affects Blood Pressure
The effects of cortisol don’t end with the propagation of visceral fat. Cortisol also narrows the arteries in your body to let your blood system pump blood faster and harder. This is beneficial in dangerous situations as it delivers highly oxygenated blood to your cells, preparing you to fight or flee.
But long-term exposure to cortisol is detrimental to your overall health, including diabetes. Consistently high levels of cortisol keep the blood pressure high and the blood vessels tighten.
In time, the pressure created by narrowed arteries can make many symptoms of diabetes worse. This also includes diabetes-induced diseases, such as diabetic nephropathy (kidney disease).
Stress Raises Blood Sugar Levels
Cortisol can quickly raise your blood sugar levels too. It causes your liver to release additional amounts of glucose into your bloodstream to make it readily available to your muscles.
Stress Increases Insulin Resistance
Another detrimental effect of high cortisone levels is that the pancreas cannot produce sufficient amounts of insulin to keep up.
Your body needs insulin to get the sugar out of your blood and turn it into energy. But when cortisol levels remain high for a prolonged period of time, the pancreas starts to struggle with insulin production, as more and more is needed to fix the increasing blood sugar levels. Insufficient insulin can’t send enough blood sugar to the cells. The resulting cycle quickly raises your body’s insulin resistance.
Stress can do a lot of damage, especially through the increased secretion of cortisol. If you have diabetes, excessive stress can raise your sugar levels, increase insulin resistance, and worsen all your symptoms. If lifestyle changes can’t help with the amount of stress you deal with, you may want to seek professional advice.