Practical Stress Management Program Found to Improve Health of People with Type 2 Diabetes

CHICAGO - Stress management is important for good health for all Americans, but for people with diabetes it is especially beneficial. New research shows a "real world" group stress management program can result in significant benefits for those with type 2 diabetes by improving glucose metabolism, thus reducing blood sugar levels. Results of the study will be presented at the 110th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association (APA) in Chicago.

The study involved 108 patients, age 30 or older, with type 2 diabetes who went through a five-session group diabetes education program with or without stress management training. The stress management program included education on the health consequences of stress, instruction in the use of cognitive and behavioral skills to recognize and reduce physiological stress levels (such as deep breathing and recognition of major stressors in life) and progressive muscle relaxation (PMR), which included consecutively tensing and relaxing muscle groups in the body.

The participants' stress levels and hemoglobin A1C (HbA1c) levels were measured at regular intervals for a one-year period to evaluate the effects of the treatment. HbA1c is the substance of red blood cells that carries oxygen to the cells and sometimes joins with glucose and what is measured to determine if a person has type 2 diabetes.

By the end of one year, 32 percent of the stress management participants had HbA1c levels that were lower by one percent or more. By contrast, only 12 percent of the control participants (those receiving no stress management training) had levels that were reduced by that much. Although the change was only modest, even changes as small as a half percent have been associated with significant reduction in microvascular complications that can accompany out-of-control diabetes, according to study lead author Richard S. Surwit, Ph.D., of the Duke University Medical Center.

"For someone already in good control of their diabetes, the reduction in HbA1c might bring them to near normal levels. For those in poorer control, it probably would not, but the reduction is associated with fewer diabetes complications for them as well," said Dr. Surwit.

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While group stress management training was successful in improving glycemic control in this study, Dr. Surwit cautions that such training may not work as well with all patients, especially those who have adverse metabolic control due to acute stress.

The study, published earlier this year in the journal Diabetes Care, is available from the APA Public Affairs Office.

Source: American Psychological Association