Chronic disease risk increases due to recent period of stress

Science and Health

In moments of acute stress, the body undergoes changes designed to protect us from immediate threats. However, when stress persists, these protective mechanisms can become detrimental, leading to both temporary and irreversible damage.

Emergencies and anxiety-inducing situations, such as conflicts like the war in Gaza, can elevate blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Mental stress can also result in unhealthy behaviors, like overeating, medication neglect, and a lack of physical activity. Balancing these factors is essential for managing stress.

The longer stress endures or recurs, the more profound the potential health consequences.

In times of acute extreme stress, the body experiences changes meant to safeguard us from threats. Yet, continuous stress can result in harm, potentially leading to conditions like diabetes. Stress responses can typically be categorized into four main types:

Physical changes:

Elevated blood pressure, increased heart rate, accelerated breathing, body temperature changes, and skin flushing or paleness.

Emotional reactions:

Fear, anxiety, anger, guilt, self-image issues, and a disinterest in one’s surroundings.

Behavioral responses:

Muscle tension, tremors, aggression, irritability, and crying.


Cognitive alterations:

Confusion, distorted perceptions, decision-making difficulties, concentration problems, and impaired judgment.

Response to Stress in Three Phases:

Alarm Phase:

This initial phase occurs when confronting a dangerous stressor, activating the “fight or flight” response. Stress hormones like adrenaline and noradrenaline are released, intensifying bodily functions.

Resistance Phase:

In this stage, the body focuses on combating the stressor. Hormones called corticosteroids, such as cortisol, play a role in this response by converting protein into energy. This maintains energy levels after glucose stores are depleted and helps adjust blood pressure.

Exhaustion Phase:

Continuous stress places a tremendous burden on the body’s systems, potentially leading to organ breakdown. The list of diseases linked to psychological and mental stress is extensive and includes conditions like asthma, depression, hypertension, ulcers, and diabetes.

The Impact of Chronic Stress:

Why do some individuals develop diseases due to chronic stress while others do not?

It could be due to an organic predisposition or the body’s reaction to stress depending on genetic factors. For example, during the last Gaza war, a study found a significant increase in glucose levels among hospitalized patients experiencing acute stress. Numerous studies explore this phenomenon further.

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Mitigating the Risk:

Managing Mental Stress:

In stressful situations, blood sugar levels may rise, so diabetics must be vigilant. Techniques like relaxation exercises, controlled breathing, guided imagery, and physical activity can help reduce sugar levels and blood pressure.


Stress often leads to emotional eating, primarily of carbohydrates, which can elevate blood sugar. Maintain a regular meal schedule, limit carbohydrate intake, and include more vegetables and proteins in your diet.

Physical Activity:

Exercise helps reduce muscle tension, relieve stress, lower sugar levels, and enhance mood. It stimulates the production of endorphins, responsible for post-exercise feelings of euphoria, improved mood, self-confidence, and better sleep.

In today’s increasingly stressful environment, adhering to a regular routine, maintaining a healthy diet, staying active, and employing relaxation techniques are vital for overall well-being.

This information was put together by Dr. Julio Weinstein, director of the diabetes unit at Wolfson Medical Center.