Diabetes Meal Planning and Nutrition For Dummies
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It’s not possible to eliminate all stress from your life — having diabetes is stressful, as are families, jobs, 24-7 news on television, travel, finances, and hundreds of other circumstances.

Everyone experiences stress because some stress is natural and unavoidable. Start with what’s called the fight or flight response — pounding heart, dry mouth, perspiration, muscle tension, shaking, lightheaded, and heightened awareness. These responses are an instinctive physical reaction to a perceived threat, even if the threat is a job interview, roller coaster ride, or public speaking assignment.

A rush of adrenaline increases breathing and heart rate, raises blood pressure and blood glucose levels, and can even impair logical decision making and thinking. Fortunately, the extreme physical response to these states of extreme stress is usually temporary.

Lower levels of stress over the long term can have the same physical effects. The intensity of your response is not as noticeable, but over time chronic stress has a more negative effect on health.

A 2010 study in Israel looked at the levels of the stress-related hormone cortisol in matched groups of hospitalized men, one group hospitalized for heart attack, and the other hospitalized for other reasons. Rather than testing for cortisol in urine, blood, or saliva for a measure of real time stress, the researchers measured accumulated levels in hair, reflecting chronic stress over a period of months.

Comparing the two groups for cardiovascular risk factors, cortisol levels in hair was a stronger predictor of heart attack than any other factors, including smoking and weight.

You can reduce stress by practicing the following simple suggestions:

  • Don’t sweat the small stuff.

  • Make time for leisure — it really is good for your health.

  • Get enough sleep — most adults need seven to eight hours each night, and sleep deprivation has negative effects on your health, too.

  • Exercise regularly — it’s a healthy way to release pent up tension.

  • Avoid excess caffeine and don’t smoke.

  • Don’t make perfection your goal — you’ll be forever frustrated.

  • Seek professional help with severe stress or depression.

Want another reason to learn how to shed stress? Stress impedes your ability to make wise decisions about diet, and making wise decisions about diet can be an excellent path to losing your stress over having diabetes. It’s a circular benefit.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book authors:

Toby Smithson, RDN, CDE, has managed her own diabetes for more than 40 years, and founded DiabetesEveryDay.com to share her insights into diabetes self-management. Alan Rubin, MD, is the author of several successful diabetes books, including Diabetes For Dummies and Diabetes Cookbook For Dummies.

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