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Stress and Diabetes

Stress, both physical and mental, can send your blood sugar out of whack. If you have diabetes, try these tips to keep stress under control.

Learn to De-stress

"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 antianxiety 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.

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If the level is below 70 and you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

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