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Friday, 28 December, 2001, 00:03 GMT
Stress 'control' helps diabetics
Some diabetics need to take insulin
Insulin is usually taken to control blood sugar levels
Beating stress with relaxation and breathing techniques can be as successful as some drugs at controlling the effects of diabetes, new research shows.

Stress can increase diabetics' glucose levels, making them more susceptible to long-term physical complications such as eye, kidney or nerve disorders.

Nearly one third of patients who regularly practiced relaxation techniques lowered their blood sugar levels by 1% or more, a survey found.

Stress management techniques, when added to standard care, helped reduce glucose levels

Richard Surwit, medical psychologist
Richard Surwit, medical psychologist at Duke University Medical Center in America, said: "The stress management techniques, when added to standard care, helped reduce glucose levels.

"The change is nearly as large as you would expect to see from some diabetes-control drugs."

The techniques are easy to learn and can be found in self-help books, according to the report published in the journal Diabetes Care.

Stress impact

Mr Surwit and his team worked with 108 patients with type II or adult-onset diabetes.

All the patients took part in five 30-minute educational sessions about diabetes, and half also got stress management training.

After a year, 32% of the patients taught stress management had a 1% or higher reduction in blood glucose levels.

Only 12% of the patients who did not get the stress training had such a reduction.

Mr Surwit said stress can also affect diabetes directly.

He said: "Experiencing stress is associated with the release of hormones that lead to energy mobilisation - known as the 'fight or flight' response.

"Key to this energy mobilisation is the transport of glucose into the bloodstream, resulting in elevated glucose levels, which is a health threat for people with diabetes."

See also:

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NHS 'failing' diabetics
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Diabetes heart death warning
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Diabetes deaths 'unnecessary'
03 Jan 01 | Health
Diabetes gene identified
09 Feb 99 | Medical notes
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