Diabetes and depression

October 9, 2015

Mounting evidence shows that stress and other mood wreckers can be a double whammy when you have diabetes. For starters, feeling anxious or depressed often leads to bad habits. You know the usual suspects: eating junk food, skipping exercise or drinking too much alcohol. Any of these behaviours can throw blood-sugar control out the window. Read on to learn more.

Diabetes and depression

1. Effects of depression

A 2008 study found that depression might increase death rates by up to 38 percent in people with type 2 diabetes. Four out of five other studies since 2005 reached similar conclusions. How can mood have such a powerful effect on diabetes? Chalk it up to hormones, such as the "stress hormone" cortisol. Stress makes us produce more of this hormone. And depressed people tend to respond to stress in their life by producing large amounts of it.

Cortisol helps to mobilize your "fight or flight" response in the event of a crisis — a fire, for instance. But it also raises blood sugar. That means that over the long term, chronic stress can pose a serious problem. Over time, stress can also increase the amount of fat you accumulate around your internal organs.

This so-called visceral fat is the worst kind — it produces dangerous chemicals that damage the arteries and increase the risk for heart attacks. To make matters worse, chronic stress raises your heart rate and makes you more likely to eventually suffer a fatal heart attack.

2. A natural remedy that fights depression

There is a natural remedy to fight depression, it's a little something called "exercise." The same endorphins that contribute to "runner's high" can provide natural relief for depression and help prevent a relapse — if you can just manage to get yourself off the couch.

In one study that pitted brisk walking or jogging against sertraline or a combination of the drug plus the exercise, after 16 weeks all three groups had about the same improvement, but at six months, the people who kept up the exercise had the lowest rates of remission. Just 50 minutes of exercise a week reduced the risk of relapse by 50 percent. It doesn't seem to matter what form of exercise you do: aerobics, strength training, and flexibility exercises like yoga all seem to provide similar benefits.

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