RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Scientific evidence—not to mention anecdotal evidence from our own experience—has made it all too clear that stress can lead to health problems like weight gain and high blood pressure. A new study published in Diabetes Care suggests that some types of stress are more damaging than others, and can increase your risk of metabolic syndrome, which is a combination of maladies including increased abdominal fat and insulin resistance. This syndrome can lead to other serious problems, most notably type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
THE DETAILS: Finnish researchers randomly selected 3,407 people between the ages of 18 and 78 from five cities in Finland. The participants all had physical exams to determine whether they had metabolic syndrome. After the physicals, study subjects filled out questionnaires asking how many times they experienced certain stressful life events within the past year.
The researchers divided the stressful events into five categories: financial (experiencing ongoing financial strain or under threat of bankruptcy or unemployment); work-related (starting a new job, feeling overworked, or having problems with coworkers); social (going through a divorce or coping with the death of a spouse or close friend); health (the participant, a family member, or child having a serious illness or injury); and housing-related (moving or losing a home).
It was found that the people who showed clinical signs of metabolic syndrome were more likely to have experienced a great deal of stress in their lives, especially financial, work, and health-related stress. Furthermore, financial and work stress in particular were significantly more likely to lead to certain individual conditions that make up metabolic syndrome—notably insulin resistance, high cholesterol, and obesity.
Read on to find out how to manage unhealthy stress levels.