Stress Might Be Increasing Type 2 Diabetes Risk In Women

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Image: iStock / Ridofranz

We’re all familiar with the risk factors of type 2 diabetes. Obesity, high blood pressure, and a sedentary lifestyle can raise your risk of developing the chronic disease. Diabetes is a major health crisis in this country, affecting nearly 31 million people. When you have diabetes, your body doesn’t regulate your blood sugar properly, which can lead to a whole host of health problems. Left untreated or unmanaged, diabetes can lead to heart disease, kidney problems, and stroke. It’s so important to take all the risk factors seriously, but there may be another factor that isn’t getting enough attention. According to a new study, type 2 diabetes risk is higher in older women who’re under a lot of stress. Turns out, your risk may be dependent on more than genetic or physiological factors.

Type 2 diabetes risk is higher in older women with high levels of acute or chronic stress.

Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco’s Center for the Study of Adversity and Cardiovascular Disease conducted the groundbreaking study. They studied data from 22.706 women participating in the Women’s Health Study. The average age was 72 years old, and none of the women had heart disease. They collected information on stress factors in the women’s lives, both acute and chronic. Acute stress was from negative or traumatic life experiences and events. Chronic stress was due to several factors like work, family, finances, and discrimination.

They found that the women who reported the highest levels of stress had the highest type 2 diabetes risk. In fact, they were twice as likely to develop the disease.

This new research really highlights the importance of looking at non-traditional risk factors for type 2 diabetes. Dr. Sherita Hill Golden is aprofessor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. Dr. Golden says, “We know that lifestyle intervention works for diabetes prevention, but that can be challenging if people experience cumulative stressors, like losing a job or caring for a family member, that hinder them from engaging in healthy behaviors like exercising, eating right or smoking cessation. It’s important to assess and understand a patient’s social history. They may need a referral to a counselor or social worker.”

The more we know about how to prevent type 2 diabetes in all segments of the population, the better equipped we are to help people manage the lifestyle factors that may increase their risk. Hopefully, this is just the start of the research on such an important health matter.

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