Blood Glucose

Stress and Diabetes: Tips for Managing Glucose

April 25, 2018   /



Elaine M. Hinzey, RD, LDN

Reviewed and Updated by Anne Danahy, MS, RDN, LDN


Stress alters blood glucose levels in people with diabetes, which makes stress management difficult. A little stress is sometimes a good thing, helping you focus or keeping you motivated. However, too much long-term stress can become detrimental to your well-being, especially for an individual with diabetes.

Stress increases heart rate and blood pressure, leads to muscular tension, and changes your breathing pattern. These changes are the result of the “fight or flight” response, which occurs in people under stress. This is when several hormones are released to aid the body in battling whatever is challenging it.

The stress hormones, which include adrenaline, cortisol, and norepinephrine, cause the release of fat and glucose into the bloodstream for energy. People with diabetes either do not produce enough insulin or do not utilize insulin correctly, so glucose can build up in the blood, leading to hyperglycemia, or elevated blood glucose.

In addition to emotional stress, physical stress, such as illness or injury, also leads to high blood-glucose levels in people with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes. People with type 1 diabetes should be especially aware of any type of stress on their body, because in this population, stress also can cause low blood-glucose levels (hypoglycemia). Symptoms of stress, such as diarrhea, fatigue, headaches, irritability, anxiety, and low self-esteem, all can impact the ways that you deal with your diabetes.

The following tips will help you better manage your diabetes during stressful times.


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