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Doctors show the value of stress management.

Doctors at Duke University have shown that stress management therapy can improve long-term control of blood sugar in diabetics.

While stress management therapy and stress counseling have been shown to relieve symptoms and even improve outcome and prognosis of myriad medical and emotional conditions, previous studies on the value of stress therapy in diabetics have yielded conflicting results. Those studies that showed a positive effect were based upon the use of individual counseling and therapy over a long period of time. Since long-term individual therapy is not a practical solution for all diabetics, the researchers investigated whether a group stress management training program might be beneficial for control of diabetes.

The doctors studied 108 people over age 30 with Type II diabetes.

The participants were divided into two groups, with both groups receiving a five-session diabetes education program. In the experimental group stress management training was included in the sessions, while the control group received only the diabetes education program. The stress training included information on stress-related medical conditions as well as development of skills to recognize and alleviate stress-related tension and anxiety. The participants also received relaxation training in the form of progressive muscle relaxation therapy.

Over the course of one year the participants filled out questionnaires at regular intervals regarding their perceived levels of stress, anxiety, and overall psychological well-being. The researchers measured the participants' HbA1c levels (indicative of long-term blood glucose control) at these same intervals. A small but significant reduction (0.5%) in HbA1c values was observed in the group receiving the supplemental stress management training. A change as small as half a percent can lead to a dramatic reduction in the vascular complications thast arise when diabetes is poorly controlled.

These results, published in the January 2002 issue of Diabetes Care, suggest that the practice of stress management techniques and stress counseling can be of significant clinical benefit to persons with diabetes.



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