Be it physical or emotional, taking unnecessary stress can not only give you headache or neck pain but, if left unattended for long, it can also trigger rise in blood sugar levels leading to Type 2 diabetes, health experts have warned.
Marked stress causes release of several stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, which increase blood sugar levels, blood pressure and pulse rate.
"If stress is consistently high, previously transient sugar rise becomes persistently high, resulting in diabetes. Similarly, the rise in blood pressure becomes constant. Stress also causes changes in eating pattern and may lead to 'binge eating', which may further cause weight gain and add to rising sugar levels," says Dr. Anoop Misra, chairman, Fortis C-DOC.
Stress can also affect diabetes control, both directly and indirectly. It is widely recognised that people with diabetes are regularly stressed and are more likely to have poor blood glucose control. "Both physical and emotional stress can prompt an increase in the hormone levels, which can rise the blood sugar levels", says Dr. Sunil Mittal, senior psychiatrist and director, Cosmos Institute of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences, New Delhi.
Shared stress can lead to similar hormonal dysregulation among children. Being in a stressful environment at home constantly can lead children to dysmetabolic state.
"According to recent findings, stress hormones cause epigenetic changes in sperm. So when a father is stressed out, his hormones pack the potential to raise his offspring's blood sugar levels. With higher blood glucose levels come a higher diabetes risk, especially Type 2 diabetes," says Dr. Ajay Kumar Ajmani, senior consultant (Endocrinology) at BLK Super Speciality Hospital in New Delhi. The primary function of these hormones is to increase blood sugar levels to help in boosting energy when the body needs it most, for example in case of the fight-or-flight response.
Making a few simple lifestyle changes can help in combating and coping up with stress, thereby reducing the risk of being diabetic or helping in keeping diabetes in control.
"One should do more of physical activities such as yoga, gymming and dancing. Aerobics and Pilates are great stress busters too. Make a few dietary changes like have plenty of fibres and whole grain meals. Avoid packaged and junk foods. Most importantly, take a break from your regular routine and plan some family outings," Dr. Ajmani suggests.
Diabetes, a lifestyle disorder, is increasingly common these days. "Intermittent stress relief in small time frames several times a day, 10-15 minutes each, could be followed with chores that you enjoy the most, such as listening to music or playing your favourite sport. Mediation too can help a lot," says Dr. Misra.