This month, the Journal of the American Heart Association published a study that linked stress to an individual’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes. “Yeah, yeah,” you might think. “I’ve heard it all before–cortisol is to blame, blah, blah, blah.” But before you stop reading, this new study took a new approach, and throws aldosterone under the bus.
Aldosterone…bet you haven’t heard that one before!
Aldosterone is a hormone that increases blood pressure, and researchers found that individuals with heightened levels of this hormone are twice as likely to develop type 2 diabetes. So what does that mean? Well, it means that high blood pressure is actually an early indicator of diabetes. That may seem scary at first; however, what it really means is that if you look at high blood pressure as a pre-symptom, you might be able to prevent or treat diabetes and restore balance to your blood sugar. Here’s everything you need to know.
1. Don’t Ignore Stress
Chronic stress is associated with a high risk of heart disease and diabetes. When your body faces stress of any kind (psychological or physical), your hypothalamus signals the pituitary and tells it to release ACTH. The ACTH then waves down your adrenal glands and tells them to release glucocorticoids like cortisol and aldosterone so that the body will be ready to react to your stressor. This stress response assembly line is called the HPA axis, and previous research has indicated that early-life trauma and chronic stress can take a dramatic toll on this system.
When this system sustains damage, it may end up improperly releasing stress hormones, leading to an imbalance that can trigger heart disease, diabetes, autoimmunity, and cancer.
2. Hard-Hitting Stress
Imbalanced cortisol production has been the consistent scapegoat when the medical community wants to link stress and disease development. But this is nothing to sneeze at; cortisol does, in fact, increase inflammation and promote fat storage around your midsection. Chronic inflammation can cause damage to your insulin receptors and reduce your body’s ability to metabolize glucose, which means you’re going to have elevated blood sugar levels. If your body can’t transform glucose into fuel, it will store it as fat around your waistline. Interestingly enough, the fat storage perpetuates one’s risk of developing heart disease as well as diabetes. While the cortisol and stress connection is nothing new when it comes to disease progression, many studies have ignored aldosterone.
3. Aldosterone: A Partner in Crime
As cortisol gathers fat around your midsection and increases inflammation, stress is making sure the adrenal glands are producing aldosterone…but they’re producing way too much. Aldosterone has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease because it can raise blood sugar and ultimately damage your blood vessels, but this study knew that cortisol wasn’t acting alone in diabetes development.
Along with its tendency to elevate your blood sugar, aldosterone reduces insulin sensitivity in muscle cells and gets in the way of insulin production in the pancreas.
If you’re thinking that sounds like a double whammy, you’re absolutely right. Cortisol and aldosterone both interfere with inflammation, your glucose metabolism, insulin production, and insulin sensitivity.
Don’t Let the Stress Get You
It’s obviously hard to avoid stress these days, what with all of the activity and requirements modern-day society asks of us. The body is complex, and if you don’t treat yours right, you could end up seriously sick.
If you’re not feeling 100%, or you suspect you may be letting stress affect your body, I urge you to come in for a consultation or consult a functional medicine practitioner.
Our clinic uses cutting-edge testing to catch warning signs that others might easily miss; our approach is designed to pinpoint the root causes of your body’s imbalance so that we can tailor a treatment plan designed specifically for you. Don’t let the stress get to you; face it head on, but just know you don’t have to do it alone.