Does Stress Raise Blood Sugar Levels?

does stress raise blood sugar levelsDoes stress raise blood sugar? This is an important question, since maintaining healthy blood sugar levels is important to your overall health, even if you are not diabetic. Persistently high blood sugar levels cause damage to the pancreas, resulting in diabetes. High blood sugar also increases your risk for heart disease and strokes, weakens your immune system, and damages your blood vessels. Finding ways to lower your blood sugar will help you improve your overall health and avoid preventable illnesses.

Does Stress Raise Blood Sugar? Understanding How Your Body Reacts to Stress

When you experience stress, whether it’s a tight deadline or an unpaid bill, it triggers your body’s fight-or-flight response. The body releases a rush of adrenaline and cortisol (the “stress hormone”), as well as extra energy in the form of glucose and fat. This spike in your blood sugar only lasts as long as you experience stress. Short-term stressors, like getting stuck in traffic, cause a temporary rise in blood sugar that your body can handle easily.

However, when you experience long-term stressors – such as chronic illness or ongoing family disputes – your body cannot return to normal, instead remaining in a state of high alert as it continues to produce increased levels of cortisol and glucose. The body cannot effectively process high levels of glucose (sugar) for extended periods of time, and the glucose ends up building up in your bloodstream and wreaking havoc on your organs and tissues.

It is also important to note that it is not just negative stress that causes the fight-or-flight response. Your body’s stress response is predicated on external stimulus, whether good or bad. Therefore, “happy stressors,” like planning a wedding, moving to a new home, or starting a new job, can also raise your blood sugar levels.

How to Lower Stress for Better Blood Sugar Control

While it isn’t possible to eliminate stress from your life completely, there are steps you can take to limit and process stress for a healthier life:

  • As much as possible, eliminate long-term stressors. Is your job a daily source of aggravation? Try talking to your boss about ways to improve your work environment, apply for a transfer, request work-from-home options, or search for a new job. While this may seem extreme, when you consider the long-term detrimental effects on your health, it is a logical course of action.
  • Cut back on short-term stressors as well. Start paying attention to the little things that get under your skin and take steps to correct or avoid them. Do you find yourself constantly rushed in the morning? Start preparing things the night before (lay out clothes, pack lunches, put keys/wallet/purse by the door, etc.) so that you can start the morning calm and refreshed.
  • Exercise regularly. Exercise not only helps lower blood sugar, it helps reduce stress and releases endorphins to improve mood. Even something as simple as taking a brisk, 30-minute walk three times a week can have positive effects on your health. If you need help getting started, or you’re wondering what types of exercise are best for your current health condition, schedule a consultation with Dr. Minni Malhotra, MD, FAARM, ABAARM.
  • Get plenty of sleep. The average adult needs seven to nine hours of sleep a night in order to stay healthy. That is because our bodies are hard at work while we are asleep, maintaining and repairing our cells, organs and tissues. Too little or too much sleep can also affect your blood sugar levels, compounding the issue.

If you need help controlling your blood sugar levels or managing stress, call Anchor Wellness Center today at (832) 246-8437. Dr. Minni Malhotra is a Board Certified physician, both in Family Medicine and with the American Board of Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine, and will create a personalized treatment plan to get you back to your optimal health.


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Check out Dr. Minni's interview on Channel 2's Houston Life Program!Watch Video