Sherri Buffington knows right away when she's stressed out.
"I'll start to feel hot," she says. Once the warmth floods her body, she tests her blood sugar. It's almost always high.
Buffington isn't imagining the connection. Stress is known to spike blood sugar, also called glucose. "It's a very common occurrence," says Kevin Pantalone, DO, staff endocrinologist at Cleveland Clinic. "Stress can increase levels of hormones in the body, particularly cortisol, which can make blood sugar rise."
"Diabetes is about balance - balancing food, activity, insulin, pills every single day," says Larry C. Deeb, MD, a diabetes specialist in Tallahassee, Fla. and president-elect of the American Diabetes Association.
Be vigilant. In its later stages, low blood sugar can be very dangerous -- possibly causing fainting, even coma.
High blood sugar (hyperglycemia). Blood sugar levels above 240 can develop when your insulin level is too low to control blood sugar. This leads to ketosis, a condition in which you're unable to use glucose for energy, so your body switches to burning fat instead.
In ketosis, fat is converted to ketones which get into your blood and your urine. Glucose also builds in your blood and spills into your urine -- pulling water from your body and causing dehydration, a potentially life-threatening condition.
"Ketosis decreases oxygen delivery to the tissues, which puts stress on eyes, kidneys, heart, liver," says Christine Gerbstadt, MD, MPH, RD, LDN, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association and a diabetes specialist in Philadelphia.
That's why a low-carb, high-protein diet, like Atkins, for example, is not really safe for people with diabetes, says Gerbstadt. "Diabetics need to try to stick with a more balanced diet so your body can handle nutrients without going into ketosis."
If your blood sugar level is under control, hyperglycemia or ketosis isn't a risk, Deeb explains.
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