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The link between stress and diabetes

A recent European study, according to Medical News Daily, suggests that a stressful work environment may increase women’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. This is when your body is unable to make use of the insulin that the pancreas produces. This is called insulin resistance. When there is insulin resistance, the pancreas attempts to over-produce insulin in order to keep blood glucose levels normal. If the pancreas is unable to provide the body with enough insulin the blood glucose levels will be low and Type 2 diabetes can develop.

The risk of developing type 2 diabetes is prompted by a lack of physical activity, being overweight or obese, having high cholesterol and high blood pressure, or having a family history of diabetes, heart disease or stroke.

Psychological factors also play a role in the development of this type of diabetes. Living with depression may increase the risk of developing diabetes, but studies now show work-related stress, at least for women, may increase the risk of type 2 diabetes.

The new study was led by Guy Fagherazzi, a senior research scientist at the Centre for Research in Epidemiology and Population Health at the research institute Inserm in Paris, France.

Fagherazzi explored whether there could be a link between “mentally tiring work” and the occurrence of type 2 diabetes. Over 70 000 women were involved in the study over a period of 22 years. Of those women, 75% were teachers and 24% of them said their work was “very mentally tiring”.

Over the study period, 4187 women developed type 2 diabetes, and those who said that their jobs were mentally “very taxing” at the start of the study were 21 percent more likely to develop the condition.

Fagherazzi and his colleagues concluded:

“These observational results suggest the importance of taking into consideration the potential long-term metabolic impact of work-related stress for women working in a demanding environment.

“Although we cannot directly determine what increased diabetes risk in these women, our results indicate it is not due to typical type 2 diabetes risk factors. This finding underscores the importance of considering mental tiredness as a risk factor for diabetes among women.”

How do you cope with a stressful work environment? And does it affect your health?

If you struggle to cope with stress at work here are some tips:

  • Track your stressors and identify what causes you the most stress and how you respond to them.
  • Develop healthy responses; do your best to make healthy choices when you feel the tension rise.
  • Establish boundaries. It’s easy to feel pressure for 24 hours a day but establish some work-life boundaries for yourself.
  • Take time to recharge and learn how to relax. Meditation, deep breathing exercises and mindfulness can help melt away stress.
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