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Stress and Blood Sugar

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In dealing with people who suffer from obesity, the most common thread that Brenda Sue and I encounter is “stress”. Stress is a killer which is why we teach people to make their world small, to create their own lives, and to avoid their stressors as much as humanly possible. No matter if you view yourself as being to weak to do this, I would encourage you to at least give stress reduction a try.

If we are being intellectually honest, we have to admit that a good portion of our stress comes from the people around us. These people who are in your inner circle will soon learn to respect your boundaries once you begin standing firm on them. Eliminating stress has to be a pro-active action, not a reactive action. No one will reduce your stress for you – stress relief is something you have to tackle for yourself.

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Stress and Heart Health.

We should all know the importance of stress relief, but for those who do not understand the health implications of being stressed around the clock – pay attention.

Acute stress can, and will damage your heart.

In case you need to read that again; acute stress can, and will damage your heart!

You can lose one hundred pounds successfully, but if you do not handle the things in life which keep you stressed, you will in all likelihood join the ranks in the ninety five percent of other failed dieters. Losing pounds by itself will not create a better life for you unless you actively pursue a healthier life.

Are you aware that the risk of a fatal heart attack on average is twice as likely to occur on Mondays when we return to the first day of work for the week.  The fact is, many people feel the most stress during their week when they are returning to work after enjoying the weekend off. People are also more prone to sudden cardiac death during the morning hours when our bodies have an increased level of cortisol and other stress hormone.

It isn’t only acute stress that causes us to suffer cardiac problems. Low level, chronic stress from working at a demanding job, marriage problems, financial worries, and chronic health issues can increase inflammation in our arteries, This inflammation damages the interior walls of our blood vessels, promotes the accumulation of cholesterol, and puts us at a higher risk for blood clots which cause most heart attacks. (1)

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Stress is known to cause:

  1. Increased blood sugar. As a survival mechanism, the body releases glucose during physical and emotional stress. When we are in danger, this dump of glucose into our blood vessels is a built-in survival mechanism which gives us energy to save ourselves. If we allow ourselves to be stressed like this on a daily basis we are subject to elevated blood sugar which damages blood vessels and increases our risk for insulin resistance. And of course, insulin resistance is what precedes diabetes and heart disease.
    • To help alleviate this problem, engage in regular exercise that has been approved by your doctor. Stress hormones are decreased with regular exercise. (1)
  2. You can experience more pain. There are studies which have shown that people who are stressed also live with more pain. They are more sensitive to pain, no matter the source. Studies have also shown that people who suffer from depression appear to experience more intense pain than those who don’t.
    • The best way to curb pain – or to compartmentalize it – is to find a distraction. A distraction can be from just about anything, even staring out of a window at the greenery, birds, and other wild life. Studies have shown that people hospitalized in a room with a view require fewer medicines for pain than those without a view outside. If you want to reduce the stress of chronic pain, find something, anything in which you can use as a distraction. Do not let others interfere with your activities that you use for a distraction from your pain, you are the one who suffers from the pain, not them. (1)
  3. You may experience impaired memory if you have suffered from stress for as little as a couple of weeks. According to studies, stress causes the nerves in the part of the brain associated with memory to shrink and lose connections with other nerve cells.
    • When you find that your stress is causing you to suffer from memory lapses, use memory tools to make your life easier. These mental tools can be repeating a persons name upon meeting them and other behaviors such as placing your keys in the same location every time that you set them down. If stress is affecting your memory, you should discuss this problem with your doctor who may recommend that you see a counselor who can help you to get through your problems. (1)
  4. Stress is well known to be a cause of weight gain. In America, we live a fast paced lifestyle that contributes to why two thirds of our adult population are overweight or obese. The reason for this lies with the fact that people who are under stress often eat more than others. Additionally, the foods that people usually eat when they are stress are not healthy choices, but are foods of comfort that are more often than not, loaded with added sugars and unhealthy fats.
    • You can alleviate more of this than you know simply by following our teachings at David’s Way to Health and Fitness. We educate people on being accountable for everything they place into their mouths, even their junk food choices.

There are many things that you can do to alleviate stress; you can write about it, use distractions, seek councelling, and most of all work towards creating your life. You can begin creating your own life by eliminating what you do not need, removing toxic people from your life, and organizing not only your home but everything that impacts how you view your own world.

Additionally, as I tell people almost everyday, “look for something beautiful”. There are many things that are beautiful that are also very close to us. When we make it a practice to do this, it places us into a positive mindset which helps to set the course for the rest of our day.



Dr. Irene Dejak, MD                                                                                                                                                            Clinical Assistant Professor Cleveland Clinic                                                                                                        Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland


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