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It was easier back in the days when we were cave-people. Imagine that you are walking along, gathering nuts and berries when all of the sudden a saber tooth tiger jumps out of the bushes.
What would you do? Right. Scream and run like @#$%!
And that's what the little organs on top of your kidneys are for. They let you run faster (hopefully) than the hungry cat. They are called your adrenal glands and they pump a hormone called adrenaline into your blood giving you a momentary boost in energy, speed, and strength. It’s your body’s turbocharger for getting out of danger.
So stress, in this case fear, causes this boost of sugar-like hormone. Back in cave-people days when something caused a blast of adrenaline, you most likely used it up right away, so it did no harm to your body.
Now, the problem these days, is that we have no saber tooth cats to stress us out, arguably a mixed blessing. But today’s stressors are not things you can run away from. Dropped cell phone calls. Traffic jams. A letter from the I.R.S. Any of these things, and a great many more, will cause stress, and that will lead to an adrenaline release, which will raise your blood sugar so that you can run away. Except you can’t run away from these things, so often your blood sugar will stay high for long periods of time.
If you are really stressed out, your sugar may be elevated all of the time. So what can you do about it? Well, if moving to Aruba and living on the beach forever is not an option, any of the following may be: exercise is often a great stress reliever, and helps work off the adrenaline to boot. If you work in a stressful environment, give yourself some sort of personal ritual at the end of the day to leave the stress at the office. Depending on your diabetes medication, an increase may off-set the elevations in sugar caused by stress. You can discuss that with your doctor.
But, and this is important, stress affects more than just your blood sugar. It can raise your blood pressure. It can affect your muscles and bones. It can affect your friendships and loved ones. So high blood sugar is just one of the negative impacts of stress. Stress, like any other illness, needs to be treated before it makes you sick.
Stress can raise blood sugar levels by releasing stress hormones in the body. In this video, endocrinologist Reza Yavari, MD, explains how both internal and external stressors can impact blood sugar levels, and why it's important to manage stress.