Stress and depression have both been linked with diabetes and heart disease, and if left untreated, can lead to more complications. Understanding these two contributing factors can help doctors formulate suitable treatment plans for their patients, so it is important to discuss the possibility of having either stress or depression with our health care providers even if they forget to ask.
Stress can come from many sources, including one’s occupation; having lost or the threat of losing our jobs or homes; or taking care of our elderly parents or children with disabilities. Stress in all its forms is normal and causes a normal increase in cortisol, which is essential for regulating a myriad of different processes in the body from blood sugar control to thyroid function and immune regulation.
Excessive stressors, on the other hand, can cause too much production of cortisol, which negatively affects all hormone systems that help keep us healthy. For example, stress-induced cortisol desensitizes tissues to the beneficial actions of many different hormones, including the sex hormones (estradiol, progesterone, testosterone), thyroid hormones, growth hormone, and insulin. Shutting down the muscle’s response to insulin, which signals the uptake of glucose for energy, leads to unhealthy, elevated levels of blood glucose. When blood glucose levels increase and there is either not enough insulin being produced by the pancreas, or if the insulin is not working properly, also known as insulin resistance, then this can ultimately lead to diabetes and/or heart disease.
It is extremely important to maintain blood glucose levels, especially in diabetics. One of the ways this can be done is through stress management. Sharing the cause of stress with the primary care doctor, family or friends is always helpful. Sometimes, social support can reduce the stress and therefore reduce the risk of heart disease.
Excessive cortisol production caused by overwhelming stressors also causes hormonal imbalances that can lead to depression. People living with any kind of depression are at higher risk of getting Type 2 Diabetes or heart disease.
What should be done to avoid becoming a victim of conditions like stress and depression?
Hormone balance, together with healthy diet and exercise, is one answer. Hormones affect everyday health and wellness by interacting with every cell inside our bodies, and if not working properly, a disruption in balance is created resulting in damaged and disturbed physiology. Keeping the hormone levels of the body in proper balance within the normal physiologic ranges seen in healthy adults helps reduce the risk of progression to conditions like heart disease and diabetes.
While hormone restoration is certainly not the only remedy for deteriorating health caused by a lifetime of excessive stressors that may or may not be unavoidable, it can be a kick-start to improving your will to get back on the road to a healthy lifestyle of exercising, eating right, and consciously removing as many stressors in your life as possible. Hormone testing can help you see where you stand and what hormone might need some tweaking to get you back on the road to health.