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Navigating the Impacts of Diabetes on Mental Health

Updated: Jan 19

**Disclaimer: This blog is provided for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute providing medical advice or professional services. The information provided should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, and those seeking personal medical advice should consult with a licensed physician. Always seek the advice of your doctor or other qualified health provider regarding a medical condition.

World Diabetes Day falls on November 14th every year. Diabetes is a growing health challenge for many people around the world. There are multiple types of diabetes, all of which result in too much sugar in the blood (also known as high blood glucose). 

Prediabetes—which can be detected through a simple blood test—is a condition in which your blood sugar is elevated but has not yet crossed the threshold into diabetes. As of 2019, 38% of all US adults had prediabetes, and only 19.0% of adults with prediabetes reported being told by a health professional that they had this condition (Source: Prevalence of Prediabetes Among Adults, CDC). Many people who don’t test their blood sugar during their annual physical checkup may never know they are afflicted with this very serious health condition.

The Role of Insulin

Insulin is a hormone that helps convert the food we eat into energy, which helps to manage blood sugar levels. If your blood sugar spikes, your body needs to work to bring it back down. Too much sugar in your blood for extended periods can cause medical complications. Though you can treat elevated blood sugar with medication, regular exercise, like running, will also help your body use up that extra sugar. With most chronic conditions, continued use of medicine will result in better results. 

Exercise To Manage Diabetes

Maintaining a regular exercise schedule will help you continue burning off the sugar. Adding consistent and moderate movement throughout each day is much more effective than a few intense days of exercise here and there. Again, this is about too much continuous blood sugar, so finding ways to continuously burn a little off is better than rapidly deleting it on an irregular basis. 

If running isn’t your thing, there are other ways to incorporate movement into your day that don’t need to require a lot of extra time and gear:

  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator

  • Park a little farther from the entrance of your work, grocery store, etc.

  • Opt for walks during breaks or after meals

  • Enjoy weekend strolls in nature

It’s important to note that running is NOT a cure for diabetes, nor is it an acceptable substitute for medication. Again, check with your doctor before making any significant changes. There are some cases where elevated blood sugar can actually be a sign/symptom of other conditions, so it’s important to get checked out.

Diabetes and Your Mental Health

Managing diabetes can take a toll on your mental health in addition to your physical health. The stress and anxiety that can come along with managing a chronic condition can give you a feeling of being out of your control of your body. This can cause mental burnout, since managing the signs/symptoms can feel all-consuming. 

I am personally affected by prediabetes. It has come and gone throughout my 20s and 30s. Early in my 20s, I was sedentary and ate a lot of junk food, which led to significant weight gain and a prediabetes diagnosis. I used that as a wake-up call to fix those lifestyle issues, and for a while, I was in the clear. 

Later in my 30s, after 7 rounds of in-vitro fertilization and a continuous battery of hormone treatments for infertility, I was once again diagnosed with prediabetes. My doctor put me on metformin, which helps me manage my blood sugar in combination with diet and exercise. 

During fertility treatment, I was not able to exercise as much as I usually did, and my diet has suffered a bit. I am hoping that once this fertility journey is over I can naturally reverse my prediabetes without having any lasting consequences. I know that if prediabetes continues to progress, it has the chance of developing into type 2 diabetes, which is scary to me. 

I have been a direct witness to the complications of the disease, and I certainly do not want it in my future. It is hard knowing that there are conditions that I cannot will my way out of, and prediabetes is one of them. However, I do know that regular activity (especially running) is one of the things I have in my control. I will continue running so that I have many years ahead of me.


By Amara Hulslander

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