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How Stress Affects Blood Sugar Levels

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Two types of stress can change blood sugar levels:

  • Physical stress
  • Mental or emotional stress

Each type of stress affects blood sugar levels differently. Physical stress generally causes blood sugar levels to increase. Physical stress includes:

  • Illness
  • Surgery
  • Injury

Mental or emotional stress has mixed effects, depending on the type of diabetes you have:

  • Type 1 diabetes: Mental stress can increase or decrease blood sugar levels.
  • Type 2 diabetes: Mental stress generally increases blood sugar levels.

Stress also can affect your blood sugar levels indirectly by causing you to forget about your regular diabetes care routine. When you're stressed out, you might:

  • Exercise more or less
  • Eat more or less
  • Eat less healthy foods
  • Not test your blood sugar level as often
  • Forget or delay a dose of medication and/or insulin

Mental Stress Can Affect Your Blood Sugar Levels

Use your diabetes logbook to discover if mental stress affects your blood sugar levels, especially if you have type 2 diabetes. Some people with type 2 diabetes are very sensitive to stress. It causes the body to produce especially high levels of stress hormones, which drive blood sugar levels up.

Follow these steps to find out if your blood sugar levels are affected by mental stress:

  1. Rate your stress level on a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 indicates the lowest stress level and 10 the highest; record your stress level in your logbook.
  2. Test your glucose using your home monitor and enter the result.
  3. After a week or two, study your results to see if there is a pattern or relationship between your stress level and your blood sugar levels.

3 Ways to Reduce Mental Stress

  • Teach yourself to relax when under stress using deep-breathing exercises or techniques you learn in a stress-management class.
  • Evaluate your schedule and determine if you can make changes to relieve stress.
  • Exercise regularly
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