This article appeared in ‘Business Munster ‘ Issue No.10, 2008/06
How a stressful environment can increase the risk of diabetes
In the business world, we deal with stress in different forms every day. Some stress can be healthy, like a daughter getting married, however, other stresses can be bad for your health, like the pressure of an imminent deadline!
Most of these stresses are temporary and people have good coping mechanisms to deal with them. It is a chronic, prolonged stress which can have serious consequences for peoples health.
Contrary to popular opinion, stress is not an emotional response to a problem. In fact, your body can be under stress for a number of reasons such as excessive exercise, or a cold or flu.
These issues can raise the amount of stress hormones your body produces and has a profound impact on the body, by triggering a cascade of hormonal reactions, including ‘flight of fight hormones’. When your mind becomes anxious, stressful or fearful, hormones rev up to help your body release extra sugar into your blood stream for the energy needed to deal with the situation. Thus, in someone predisposed to diabetes or in a ‘Pre-Diabetic’ state, physical and mental stress can trigger the onset of diabetes. However, researchers say stress does not cause diabetes.
So What is Pre-Diabetes?
In Pre-Diabetes, also known as insulin resistance, your celss are beginning to resist your body’s insulin. It can resemble a lock and key. Your cell is a locked door. The sugar wants to get in the door and the cell would like the sugar to come in. The insulin acts as the key to allow the sugar to reach the cell. Pre-Diabetes is the beginning of a sticky lock that won’t always open the key.
Other factors which affect the onset of diabetes include excess weight gain and genetics. Excess weight contributes because too much fat and lack of exercise interferes with muscles ability to use insulin. Similar attributes can be seen in chronically stressed people.
Many people with insulin resistance and high blood glucose have excess weight around the waist, high cholesterol and high blood pressure, all conditions that also put the heart at risk. This combination of problems is referred to as the ‘metabolic syndrome’ (formerly called Syndrome X)
In Ireland 250,000 people have Type 2 Diabetes, over 50% of these sufferers aren’t even aware they have the disease. Diabetes accounts for 6% of the overall national health care budget, both in treating the condition and its complications. Therefore, the prevention of diabetes must become a significant focus for the future.
In a Diabetes Prevention Trial carried out in the US, it was found that regular moderate exercise for 6 months of the year (already an effective antidepressant and stress coping mechanism) reduced the incidence by almost 60%. Another syudy showed that moderate exercise for as little as 30 minutes a day, improved cognitive function and the ability to make decisions. The human body is designed to experience stress and react to it. Stress can be positive, keeping us alert and ready to avoid danger. However, stress can be negative when a person is faces continuous challenges without a relief or relaxation over a pro-longed period. Thus, it is imperative not only to look at stress a ‘reaction’, but to recognize its role in all aspects of our health.