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How fast does stress of any kind (i.e. anxiety, fear, anger, etc.) affect blood sugar levels? Can it make it go up or down or both?

The rate of change of blood sugar after a stress event would depend on a series of events:

  1. recognition by the brain that a stress event has occured, based on information supplied by the eyes, ears, or other sensory organs,
  2. triggering of messages sent from the brain through the nervous system to the adrenal glands (in the abdominal area),
  3. release of adrenal hormones that can raise blood sugar: epinephrine (Adrenaline) and cortisol,
  4. transportation of these hormones through the bloodstream to the liver,
  5. conversion of nutrients stored in the liver (such as glycogen) into sugar,
  6. transfer of the newly-produced sugar into the bloodstream,
  7. and finally, the traveling of the sugar to the fingertips where it's measured with your blood glucose meter.

Our hunch is that it would be in a relatively short while, probably measured in minutes rather than hours. Interestingly, several people we've spoken to about this don't really know the exact amount of time involved in all these steps (even one of our friends who's a diabetes nurse who has diabetes herself)!

Usually stress makes the sugar go up, but anything can happen. For example, if someone under stress didn't eat, the blood sugar would be likely to go down.

There's also another question about stress and blood sugar levels that you might want to read.

Original posting 5 Feb 96


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Last Updated: Tuesday April 06, 2010 15:08:52
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