Does excess stress contribute to developing diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is the fastest growing chronic condition in Australia. Research shows that taking steps to have a less stressful lifestyle can help reduce the risk.

Professor Timothy Olds, Professor of Behavioural Epidemiology at the University of South Australia, believes life stresses have the potential to manifest into non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, stroke, asthma, heart disease, depression and osteoporosis.

Excess -stress -diabetes -healthy -lifestyle -fact -wyza -com -au(Photo: Diabetes Australia)

During a keynote speech Stress, lifestyle and diabetes at the 2015 ADS/ADEA Annual Scientific Meeting in Adelaide he provided fascinating insight for helping to understand how frequent activation of the human stress response, can in fact damage the body in the long run.

The estimated [economic] impact of diabetes in Australia is staggeringly $14.6 billion annually.

Professor Olds says, “We are all, to different extents, subject to life stresses. Whether that’s relationship or money worries through to exposure to viruses and injuries. These stresses lead to a state of inflammation, the body’s natural response to stress, resulting in increased blood pressure, blood sugar, blood fats and stress hormones released into the bloodstream to provide emergency fuel.”

Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in working age adults.

“Inflammation is good in the short term; it’s the fight or flight response that helps us deal with immediate challenges, but when we are subject to repeated stress we get chronic low-grade inflammation, such as chronic high blood pressure, high blood sugars (which leads to insulin resistance) and the shortening of telomeres. Telomeres are the marker for biological ageing – the shorter they are, the ‘older’ we are. All-in-all, these are changes which are frankly bad for us,” he adds.

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(Photo: Diabetes Australia)

“Eventually, all of this manifests permanently as high blood fats, blood pressure, insulin resistance and airway inflammation – this is the allostatic load. In laymen’s terms, it’s the ‘wear and tear on the body’ that grows over time when an individual is repeatedly exposed to stresses."

The prevalence of diabetes in Australia is growing and approximately 100,000 people were diagnosed last year in Australia alone.

“Sustained for long enough, a high allostatic load will translate into overt diseases such as diabetes, depression, cardiovascular disease, asthma and perhaps even osteoporosis and dental problems,” says Professor Olds.

Roughly 1.7 million Australians have been diagnosed with diabetes and many more remain undiagnosed.

Diabetes in Australia

Diabetes is the epidemic of the 21st century and the biggest challenge confronting Australia’s health system.

  • 280 Australians develop diabetes every day. That’s one person every five minutes
  • Around 1.7 million Australians have diabetes. This includes all types of diagnosed diabetes (1.2 million known and registered) as well as silent, undiagnosed type 2 diabetes (up to 500,000 estimated)
  • More than 100,000 Australians have developed diabetes in the past year
  • For every person diagnosed with diabetes there is usually a family member or carer who also ‘lives with diabetes’ every day in a support role. This means that an estimated 2.4 million Australians are affected by diabetes every day
  • Total annual cost impact of diabetes in Australia estimated at $14.6 billion

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(Photo: Diabetes Australia)

Diabetes is the fastest growing chronic condition in Australia; increasing at a faster rate than other chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer. All types of diabetes are increasing in prevalence:

  • Type 1 diabetes accounts for 10% of all diabetes and is increasing
  • Type 2 diabetes accounts for 85% of all diabetes and is increasing
  • Gestational diabetes in pregnancy is increasing

Source: Diabetes Australia

Newly diagnosed?

If you have been diagnosed with diabetes you are eligible to register with the National Diabetes Services Scheme. It is free to register and provides subsidised products to people with diabetes or contact Diabetes Australia on 1300 136 588.

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(Photo: Diabetes Australia)

Good news on the horizon

At present there is no cure for diabetes. Scientists and researchers around the world are actively working on a cure. As an organisation, Diabetes Australia directly supports diabetes research through our research program and strategic partnerships.

Diabetes Australia provide funding towards the prevention, management and cure of diabetes, as well as enabling and fostering young and upcoming researchers in the field of diabetes research.

In 2015, Diabetes Australia has committed more than $3.5 million to diabetes research projects. Over the past eight years, the Diabetes Australia Research Program has invested $23 million in 335 diabetes research projects across Australia.

All the research funds are held in trust with 90% of donations going directly toward research grants. Current research projects include:

  • Australian artificial pancreas algorithm for announced and unannounced meals
  • Reducing the risk of irreversible vision loss due to diabetic retinopathy
  • Islet transplantation as a strategy to restore normal glucose levels in people with Type 1 diabetes
  • Pinpointing the precise mechanisms by which exercise benefits diabetes prevention

Visit the Research Program page to find out more about the latest research in the world of diabetes.

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