Stress, Lack of Sleep Can Increase Your Risk of Developing Diabetes

Keep an eye on your lifestyle habits and be aware of your personal risk factors

Stress, Lack of Sleep Can Increase Your Risk of Developing Diabetes

Developing type 2 diabetes as an adult is not only about eating habits. Several lifestyle factors — including stress — can put you at a greater risk of developing the disease.

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In type 2 diabetes, you have too much sugar, also called glucose, in your blood. People with diabetes have problems converting food to energy.

After a meal, food is broken down into glucose, which is carried by your blood to cells throughout your body. Cells absorb glucose from your blood with the help of the hormone insulin and use it for energy.

Type 2 diabetes usually begins with insulin resistance, a condition linked to excess weight in which your body’s cells do not use insulin properly. As a result, your body needs more insulin to help glucose enter cells.

The impact of stress

Stress is one of the more overlooked factors that can increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, says endocrinologist Mary Vouyiouklis Kellis, MD.

“Stress puts your body into a flight or fight mode. As a result, your levels of hormone such as adrenaline and cortisol rise. This can impact your blood glucose levels,” Dr. Kellis says.

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“If you have pre-diabetes, these increases in blood glucose levels can’t be effectively lowered because you’re insulin-resistant,” she says. “As a result, over time, stress can increase a person’s risk to develop type 2 diabetes.”    

Another problem with stress is that the increase in cortisol can make you want to eat more than you should, Dr. Kellis says.

People who stress-eat are more likely to gain weight. Carrying too much weight is one of the biggest risk factors for type 2 diabetes, she says.

Sleep matters, too

Another often-overlooked risk factor is sleep deprivation, Dr. Kellis says.

In addition to making you crave carbohydrates and sugar-loaded foods, Dr. Kellis said a lack of sleep can make you less likely to want to exercise, which eventually will  lead to putting on more pounds.

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Healthy lifestyle choices

Dr. Kellis reminds her patients that keeping an eye on lifestyle habits and being aware of your personal risk factors can help lessen the likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes.

“Eating healthy is very important,” Dr. Kellis says. “That means eating protein, reducing fine sugars, sugary sweets and beverages, and making sure you add protein, whole grains, fiber and vegetables to your diet.”

Exercise also has an important role in avoiding diabetes, she says.

Even for those who don’t do vigorous exercise, it’s important to at least try to get up and walk, especially after meals, Dr. Kellis says. She also recommends working to reduce stress by practicing yoga and meditation.

More than 400 million adults have diabetes worldwide and diabetes is responsible for about 5 million deaths each year.

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