CAUTION! … Stress increases the risk of Diabetes and weight gain, among other serious health problems
No doubt we live in a world where our life leads us to constantly fight against the clock and the lack of economic resources. This exposes us to a greater stress, for which our body wasn’t designed. If Stress becomes a recurring thing in our lives, it’ll increase our risk of developing Diabetes, gaining weight and suffering from many other serious health problems. Here we explain the mechanisms that “fire off” in our body when we’re stressed, which, when constant, can cause a lot of damage to our health.
By: Joe Cardozo
Under stress, the body secretes greater amounts of two hormones, Cortisol and Epinephrine, a defense mechanisms designed to cope with moments of stress, emergency and danger. In this case, cells need to be ready to fight, which is why they need more energy, that is, Glucose. That’s when Cortisol exerts its two main functions, raising blood glucose levels so cells can “feed” and contracting arteries to increase blood pressure so blood will flow more strongly to transport oxygen and nutrients to the cells tissues and muscles that need it at the time. Meanwhile, Epinephrine also helps accelerate blood flow, speeding up the heart rate. When danger or stress ceases, everything returns to normal.
Cortisol is a glucocorticoid (steroid), produced by cholesterol in the adrenal glands located above the kidneys.
But then, why is stress so harmful to our health?
When stress becomes an everyday thing, glucose levels remain consistently above the normal range (70 mg/dl to 100 mg/dl), which is why stress is a serious problem in people with Diabetes, because it imbalances and affects good control, which we need to prevent the dreaded chronic complications associated with poorly controlled Diabetes.
Stress increases the risk of developing Diabetes
People who DON’T have Diabetes have mechanisms that automatically regulate the high glucose levels caused by cortisol secreted under stressful situations, i.e., in these cases, the bodies themselves return glucose levels to their normal range.
This self-regulation glucose mechanism includes a hormone called insulin, which is secreted by the beta cells in the pancreas, and acts as a key that opens the cell doors so glucose can enter and be used as fuel or energy, causing glucose levels flowing through the bloodstream to be kept within normal levels. Unfortunately this mechanism deteriorates over time, if the person is permanently stressed, the Beta cells get “exhausted” because they’re constantly trying to maintain these high blood glucose levels within the normal range and can gradually lose their ability to release enough insulin to keep glucose levels within the normal range, thereby increasing the risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes.
Excess stress increases the chances of having Excess weight and Obesity
There are several factors that can make the steady release of Cortisol to further increase the risk of excess weight, obesity and Type 2 Diabetes.
Another one of Cortisol’s functions, in its attempt to maintain glucose levels elevated during stress, is to send a signal to the Hypothalamus, in the brain, to release a hormone called Ghrelin, whose function is to increase appetite, thus increasing the desire to eat. If stress becomes part of a person’s daily routine, an excess of ghrelin will lead to eating more and gaining weight, increasing the risk of excess weight or obesity. Excess weight and obesity are the main risk factors for developing Type 2 Diabetes.
On the other hand, Cortisol released in times of stress, makes fat cells or adipocytes (fat) increase their size, especially in the adipose tissue located in the abdomen or waist, increasing waist size. Each adipocyte can be enlarged to up to 5 times its original size. This situation not only increases waist circumference (fat belly), it also causes cells to lose their sensitivity to insulin signals, not functioning properly, which is why glucose levels increase even more in the bloodstream. This is known as “insulin resistance” or “Impaired Glucose Tolerance” and could represent a stage before a Type 2 Diabetes diagnosis, increasing the risk of other serious cardiovascular problems (Hypertension, Atherosclerosis, High Cholesterol and Triglyceride levels).
Other health problems caused by excess Stress and Cortisol
The list of harmful effects caused by high Cortisol levels due to a constantly stressful life, is long, and includes several systems of the human body. Cortisol suppresses the immune system, thereby reducing its ability to fight infections, colds or allergies, it also affects the gastrointestinal system, causing indigestion, gastritis, colitis, irritation and inflammation of the stomach and intestinal mucosa, which can lead to ulcers, which are very common in people who are excessively stressed.
Given that Cortisol constricts the blood vessels and raises blood pressure, it can also reduce production of nitric oxide in the inner arterial walls, which over time can damage them and facilitate the formation of atherosclerotic plaques or Atherosclerosis, which added to high pressure, can trigger heart attacks. That’s why people who live under constant stress are more susceptible to heart attacks and strokes.
Erectile dysfunction, menstrual cycle irregularities, thyroid disorders, chronic fatigue, insomnia, depression and dementia are some of the health problems that must also be added to the list of harmful effects caused by a stressful life.
At Diabetes Up to Date we ask people to try to lead a calmer life to benefit their health
It has been shown that leading a stressful life causes several health problems which could be prevented if we change our attitude to the adverse situations that may arise in life. Which is why we invite you to find ways to evade and release stress. Don’t allow negative thoughts to invade your mind, take a deep breath and when you calm down think and plan well to find the solutions your need. Manage your time and money wisely, contemplating restful and entertaining moments, exercise, follow relaxation techniques or consult with a specialist or psychotherapist, these are all very useful tools that can help lower your stress levels, so you can enjoy a healthier, more productive and happier life.
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