Study Shows Distress Reduction Helps Improve Blood Sugar Control

It’s no surprise that having diabetes comes with some stress. Worrying about your blood sugar and complications, making sure you have all the supplies to manage your condition properly, watching what you eat, and all the other tasks that come with diabetes can cause some distress.

So when someone tells you to try to reduce the stress in your life, it can be a pretty tall order. But new research is revealing that reducing your distress is actually incredibly important not only to your overall health but also to make your diabetes easier to control, which could have a cyclical effect, enabling you to be less distressed due to diabetes.

The study, led by Danielle Hessler of the University of California, San Francisco, and published in Diabetes Care, was conducted on 301 adult participants (average age of 45.1 years) with type 1 diabetes. Their mean baseline HbA1c was 8.8 percent at the beginning of the study.

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Researchers asked one-half of participants to focus on reducing their diabetes distress (DD), while the other half was asked to focus on diabetes education and care. Measurements of diabetes distress, self-care, HbA1c, and frequency of hypoglycemia were taken at the beginning of the study and after nine months.

Researchers found that those participants who lowered their diabetes distress also improved in their self-care. They missed fewer insulin boluses, made adjustments to their treatment more frequently, monitored their blood glucose levels more often, and were more likely to adopt a continuous glucose monitoring strategy. Their diabetes-related problem-solving skills also improved.

In turn, those participants who improved their self-care also saw an improvement in their HbA1c and the frequency of hypoglycemic episodes over time.

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So reducing your distress doesn’t automatically improve your diabetes, but it can improve your mood and attitude enough to allow you to have the energy and motivation to take better care of yourself.

“In the context of an intervention to reduce DD for adults with T1D, results indicate that reductions in DD do not affect glycemic outcomes directly but through improvements in self-care behavior,” the authors write. “Findings support the importance of integrating disease management with DD interventions to maximize improvements in glycemic outcomes.”

The researchers say their findings indicate that it is vital to integrate disease management with diabetes distress interventions in order to maximize the improvements in glycemic outcomes for patients.

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So there you have it, folks. Managing your condition is about more than just doing what your doctor has told you to do. It’s also about taking care of your mental health so that you can continue treating your diabetes to the best of your ability over time. Doing everything perfectly is great in the short run, but it won’t be good for you to get burnt out in the long run and stop doing what you need to be doing to stay healthy.

Hang in there, friends, and remember to take care of your mental health so that you can do a better job caring for your physical health!

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