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Metabolic Health Month: Stress

Written by: Emily J., MSc RD

Reviewed by: Dr. Vimal Ramjee, MD, FACC

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4 minutes

Stress is a normal physiological process, but what happens when you experience too much of it? Learn about the impact of stress on metabolic health — and how to manage it in your everyday life.

Hard to believe we’re already coming to the end of Metabolic Health Month 2023! We’ve talked about the first three pillars of metabolic health: foodexercise, and sleep — so be sure to check those out for the ultimate metabolic health kickoff to your year (if you haven’t already). 

This week, we’re wrapping up our fourth and final pillar of metabolic health: stress.

Stress is typically a little-noticed but highly impactful factor when it comes to affecting metabolic health. Here, we’ll dive into how stress impacts metabolic health and all the ways you can manage stress for better sleep, food choices, peace of mind, and glucose control. 

The Connection Between Stress and Metabolic Health

Due to our always-on-the-go culture, most of us are familiar with stress in some form or another. Stress can come in many forms, like emotional, physiological, acute, or chronic stress. 

Emotional stress is things like facing pressure at work, relationship problems, or financial concerns, while physical stress affects the body and its functions. 

Whether physical or emotional, your bodily response is similar. However, two types of stress that have very different effects on health are acute and chronic stress.

Acute stress is an immediate, “fight-or-flight” response to any real or perceived threat. Your brain sets alarm bells off to the central nervous system, which then increases your heart rate, blood pressure, and blood glucose levels, giving you the energy to run from or fight off an attack from a larger predator [1]. 

This is a normal physiological process, and that spike in blood glucose you see on your CGM graph is your body is trying to protect you from harm. However, repeated instances of acute stress instances can lead to chronic stress. 

Chronic stress is repeated exposure to physically or emotionally stressful situations that, over time, can lead to metabolic dysfunction. Chronic stress causes your body to remain in that high-alert state for longer than it was meant to, which eventually causes your insulin and glucose responses to break down, putting you at a higher risk of fatigue, poor food choices, weight gain, insulin resistance, and cardiovascular disease [2, 3].   

The 5 Best Stress-Relieving Activities

Getting rid of stress in your life can be a challenge, especially since it’s not always easy to opt out of stressful situations (like a job, for example). 

But knowing how to manage your response in the face of stress can make all the difference — and prevent the onset of chronic stress. 

That’s it for this week! Thanks for reading our metabolic health month series and starting your year — and health — on the right foot with us here at Veri.