Stress Is as Stress Does

I have been so stressed lately. It’s the usual: Covid-19, the elections, etc. But then there are the personal reasons: my upcoming surgery, Bear’s cataract surgery and being his caretaker, the third under-the-slab water leak in our house, and my brother’s ill health come to mind right away. I do take time to quietly read, play Word Crush, or watch a movie, but the stress is still there… and my blood glucose numbers are going up. “Is there a correlation?” I wondered. 

You may remember (I certainly do) that Healthline included this blog in the Best Kidney Disease Blogs for 2016 & 2017. They like my work; I like theirs, so I went to their website to see what I could find about stress and diabetes. I have diabetes type 2, by the way. That’s the type in which you produce insulin, but your body doesn’t use it well. 

Okay, now let’s see what Healthline at https://bit.ly/2TIHwWZ has to say: 

“… But there’s a problem. The body can’t differentiate between danger and stress. Both trigger fight-or-flight. 

So today’s most common ‘danger’ isn’t wild animals. It’s the letter from the IRS. There’s no quick resolution — no violent fight, no urgent need to run for miles. Instead, we sit in our sedentary homes and workplaces, our bodies surging with sugar, with no way to burn it off. 

That’s how stress messes with diabetes. Acute stress floods us with unwanted (and un-medicated) sugar. Chronic stress is like a leaking faucet, constantly dripping extra sugar into our systems. The impact on blood sugar caused by stress is so significant that some researchers feel it serves as a trigger for diabetes in people already predisposed to developing it.” 

Wait a minute here. “Acute stress floods us with unwanted (and un-medicated) sugar.” How does it do that? The answer I liked best is from Lark at https://bit.ly/3ebZU4b. Yes, Lark is a company that produces electronic aids for various stages of diabetes, but it also offers short, easy to understand explanations of what’s happening to your diabetes during different situations. 

“Cortisol signals your brain and body that it is time to prepare to take action. You may be able feel this as your heart pounds and muscles tense. At the same time, what you may not feel is that cortisol signals a hormone called glucagon to trigger the liver to release glucose (sugar) into your bloodstream. The result: higher blood sugar. 

Cortisol’s role in preparing your body for action goes beyond mobilizing glucose stores. Cortisol also works to make sure that the energy that you might spend (whether fighting a bear or running to stop your toddler from toddling into the street) gets replenished. That means you may feel hungry even when you do not truly need the food – and that can lead to weight gain. Again, the result is an increase in blood sugar.” 

Quick reminder: 

“Think of cortisol as nature’s built-in alarm system. It’s your body’s main stress hormone. It works with certain parts of your brain to control your mood, motivation, and fear. 

Your adrenal glands — triangle-shaped organs at the top of your kidneys — make cortisol. 

It’s best known for helping fuel your body’s ‘fight-or-flight’ instinct in a crisis, but cortisol plays an important role in a number of things your body does. For example, it: 

  • Manages how your body uses carbohydrates, fats, and proteins 
  • Keeps inflammation down 
  • Regulates your blood pressure 
  • Increases your blood sugar (glucose) 
  • Controls your sleep/wake cycle 
  • Boosts energy so you can handle stress and restores balance afterward” 

Thank you to WebMD at https://wb.md/35RaDgr for the above information. 

Let’s get back to how we end up with excess sugar in our blood due to both acute (sudden) and/or chronic (long term) stress. Diabetes Education Online, part of the Diabetes Teaching Center at the University of California, San Francisco, offers the following explanation. You can find out more by going to their website at https://bit.ly/3oNXgqi.    

“During stressful situations, epinephrine (adrenaline), glucagon, growth hormone and cortisol play a role in blood sugar levels. Stressful situations include infections, serious illness or significant emotion stress. 

When stressed, the body prepares itself by ensuring that enough sugar or energy is readily available. Insulin levels fall, glucagon and epinephrine (adrenaline) levels rise and more glucose is released from the liver. At the same time, growth hormone and cortisol levels rise, which causes body tissues (muscle and fat) to be less sensitive to insulin. As a result, more glucose is available in the blood stream.” 

Now I’m stressed about being stressed… and that’s after trying to keep my stress levels down so I don’t make my Chronic Kidney Disease worse… now I find it’s also making my diabetes worse. What, in heaven’s name, will happen if I continue to be this stressed? 

I went right to The National Kidney Foundation at https://bit.ly/2HQVsvs for an answer I could trust. 

“The combined impacts of increased blood pressure, faster heart rate, and higher fats and sugar in your blood can contribute to a number of health problems, including high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease (also known as cardiovascular disease). 

Stress and uncontrolled reactions to stress can also lead to kidney damage. As the blood filtering units of your body, your kidneys are prone to problems with blood circulation and blood vessels. High blood pressure and high blood sugar can place an additional strain or burden on your kidneys. People with high blood pressure and diabetes are at a higher risk for kidney disease. People with kidney disease are at higher risk for heart and blood vessel disease. If you already have heart and blood vessel disease and kidney disease, then the body’s reactions to stress can become more and more dangerous.” 

Oh, my! I think I’d better quietly read, play Word Crush, or watch a movie right now.  

Before I leave, I did want to let you know a $10 million Kidney Prize competition has been launched. If you’re seriously interested, go to https://akp.kidneyx.org. According to their website, KidneyX is 

“The Kidney Innovation Accelerator (KidneyX), a public-private partnership between the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the American Society of Nephrology (ASN), is accelerating innovation in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of kidney diseases.” 

Until next week, 

Keep living your life! 

At the Heart of the Matter

Happy New Year! Here’s wishing you all a very healthy one. I, on the other hand, found myself in the cardiologist’s office the very first week of 2019. That was odd for me.

It all started when I asked my very thorough primary care physician what – if anything – it meant that my blood pressure reading was ten points higher in one arm than the other. By the way, she’s the one that suggested I take my blood pressure on a daily basis. Her nurse always used the left arm to take the reading, so I did too. Then I got curious about what the reading on the other arm would be and how much difference there would be between arms. I expected a point or two, not ten.

Although my readings had always been a bit high, they weren’t high enough to warrant extra attention… until I mentioned the ten point difference to my PCP. BAM! I had an appointment with the cardiologist.

This information in last year’s April 23’s blog will explain why:

“We know that hypertension is the number two cause of CKD. Moderating our blood pressure will (hopefully) slow down the progression of the decline of our kidney function. Kidney & Urology Foundation of America, Inc. at http://www.kidneyurology.org/Library/Kidney_Health/High_Blood_Pressure_and_Kidney_Disease.php explains this succinctly:

‘High blood pressure makes your heart work harder and, over time, can damage blood vessels throughout your body. If the blood vessels in your kidneys are damaged, they may stop removing wastes and extra fluid from your body. The extra fluid in your blood vessels may then raise blood pressure even more. It’s a dangerous cycle.’

And heart rate? The conclusion of a study published in the Journal of Nephrology reads:

‘Heart rate is an independent age-dependent effect modifier for progression to kidney failure in CKD patients.’

You can read the entire study at https://www.researchgate.net/publication/232714804_Heart_rate

So we know that blood pressure and heart rate are important for Chronic Kidney Disease patients. Just in case you’ve forgotten, heart rate is a synonym for pulse which is the number of times your heart beats a minute.

MedicineNet at https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=154135 offers more about what the difference between readings from both arms MAY mean:

“People whose systolic blood pressure — the upper number in their reading — is different in their left and right arms may be suffering from a vascular disease that could increase their risk of death, British researchers report.

The arteries under the collarbone supply blood to the arms, legs and brain. Blockage can lead to stroke and other problems, the researchers noted, and measuring blood pressure in both arms should be routine.

‘This is an important [finding] for the general public and for primary care doctors,’ said Dr. William O’Neill, a professor of cardiology and executive dean of clinical affairs at the University of Miami Miller School Of Medicine.

‘Traditionally, most people just check blood pressure in one arm, but if there is a difference, then one of the arteries has disease in it,’ he said.

The arteries that run under the collarbone can get blocked, especially in smokers and diabetics, he noted. ‘If one artery is more blocked than the other, then there is a difference in blood pressure in the arms,’ O’Neill explained.

‘Doctors should, for adults — especially adult smokers and diabetics — at some point check the blood pressure in both arms,’ he said. ‘If there is a difference it should be looked into further.’

The report appears in the Jan. 30 online edition of The Lancet. ”

Notice I capitalized may. That’s because, in my case, there apparently was no blockage. My cardiologist had a different view of things. He felt there wasn’t a problem unless the difference in readings between your two arms is more than 20 points and that your blood pressure would have to be much higher than my slightly elevated blood pressure before this could be considered a problem.

He made note of my diabetes and congratulated me for taking such good care of myself, especially since I’m a caretaker. I must have looked puzzled because he went on to explain that caretakers sometimes have a sort of martyr complex and are convinced they cannot take the time away from the person they’re caring for to care for themselves. And, yes, he did use the oxygen masks in an airplane analogy to point out how important it is for caretakers to care for themselves first.

Now that I’ve wandered on to the subject of caretakers, seemingly continuing the thread from last week’s blog, here’s a health screening from Path to Wellness that may interest you if you live in Arizona. I urge you to take part yourself and bring anyone you think may be affected or has someone in their lives that may have CKD.

What: The National Kidney Foundation of Arizona will host a FREE health screening, aiming to identify chronic diseases in their early stages in those at highest risk.

When: Saturday, January 26, 2019, 8:30am- 12:00pm (appointments highly recommended**)

Where: Betty Fairfax High School (8225 S. 59th Ave., Laveen, AZ 85339)

Individuals who are 18 years or older and have a family member with diabetes, high blood pressure or chronic kidney disease, OR have high blood pressure or diabetes themselves are urged to attend this important event. Early detection means the possibility of preventing further, life-risking damage to the kidneys.

**Appointments may be scheduled by calling the National Kidney Foundation of Arizona at (602) 840-1644 (English) or (602) 845-7905 / (602)845-7912 (Spanish).

OR

Visit https://azkidney.org/pathtowellness and register online!

This medical screening includes immediate onsite results and medical education and is provided at absolutely no cost. The event is staffed with medical professionals, with the ability to screen 200 attendees.

About Path to Wellness: The Path to Wellness program is the product of a community collaboration between the National Kidney Foundation of Arizona and Cardio Renal Society of America. This January screening is provided in partnership with Adelante Healthcare and the Phoenix Metropolitan Alumnae Chapter, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Sorority, Inc., and generously funded by the BHHS Legacy Foundation. Path to Wellness screenings are unique in that they try to target areas of cities where the high demographics of under-insured or at-risk individuals may have an opportunity to detect chronic health problems early on, in a cost-free environment. The screenings also offer the unique advantage of both on-site results, and post-screening education on chronic disease management.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!