We all know ongoing emotional or physical stress makes us feel poorly. But chronic stress can also lead to serious health conditions such as excess body fat, obesity and type 2 diabetes. Find out the importance of reducing stress in your life to be healthier and happier.

  • There is science behind stress being linked with increased body fat cells. Stress releases neuropeptide Y (NPY) that unlocks some of the receptors in fat cells. This makes them grow in number and size. The situation can lead to obesity, inflammation and susceptibility to infection. Often this type of fat is stored in your belly. This makes you more likely to develop type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Stress makes it difficult to lose weight. The key is to pinpoint the causes of stress in your life and eliminate them.
  • There are emotional stresses such as losing a job or needing to pay taxes. But there are also physical stresses such as serious illness, chronic infection and inflammation. Other stressful physical challenges include environmental toxins and autoimmune disease. You can also experience physical stress due to insomnia, excessive eating, too much alcohol and extremely intense exercise. Leading a balanced life is crucial to reduce stress. Avoid fad diets and strenuous workout routines. Incorporate healthy foods such as low-fat dairy, lean meats and whole grains with plenty of fruits and vegetables. Exercise daily for a half hour a day. Try walking, swimming or stress reducing exercises such as Tai chi or yoga. Avoid time-consuming workout routines that leave you exhausted rather than energized.
  • Chronic stress causes your adrenal glands to release a hormone called cortisol. This hormone is naturally released in healthy doses during the day to wake you up in the morning then tapers off during the day so you can get to sleep. Chronic stress increases the release of cortisol in your body. It can raise blood sugar and make it more difficult for glucose to get into your cells. Stress also increases your production of glucose because your body goes into a “fight or flight mode.” Excessive cortisol makes you feel hungrier and crave sugar, creating a vicious cycle. Too much cortisol makes cells less sensitive to insulin which is called insulin resistance. You store more fat, fatty acids and triglycerides. Cortisol causes hormonal imbalances, increased body fat and makes your have a fatty liver. These physical conditions can lead to obesity and type 2 diabetes. Take time to meditate for 15 minutes each day to the reduce stress in your life. Deep breathe several times a day. Make gradual lifestyle changes to get rid of stress. If you are unable to shake stressful feelings, talk to your doctor or a counselor.
  • Sleep also plays a major role in stress, obesity and type 2 diabetes. If you get less than 6 hours of sleep each night, insulin sensitivity is reduced and your appetite increases. Losing 3 hours of sleep each night can lead to a weight gain of up to 5 percent. Also, consuming less than 1,500 calories per day can also lead to increased cortisol levels. Deprivation is never the answer, whether it comes to sleep or food. Sleep at least 7 hours per night and eat three well-balanced meals with two snacks each day. Drink plenty of water and avoid habits such smoking or drinking too much alcohol. Try to limit sweet treats. Try delicious diabetic foods with less sugar and fat to ward off hunger and stay on track.
  • When you are stressed, your body reduces a harmful cocktail including cortisol, glucagon and epinephrine (adrenaline) along with growth hormones. Your blood sugar soars and fat cells are produced. When you already have type 2 diabetes, stress can be caused from too much insulin or medication as well as eating the wrong foods. You experience fluctuations in blood sugar levels that could be dangerous. Test your blood sugar regularly and record the results to share with your doctor during regular checkups. If you have extreme highs or lows, report them to your doctor right away.

Stress does more than make us feel unhappy. Chronic physical and emotional stress can lead to serious health conditions. Reduce stress, get plenty of sleep and stick to a well-balanced diet and lifestyle to feel your best.