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Mindfulness training improves diabetes symptoms and blood sugar levels


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(NaturalNews) It's easy to let current circumstances in our lives dictate our thoughts and feelings. When a problem arises, if we get sick, we are quick to blame it on anything but ourselves. In this way, we are undermining the power of our own thoughts and intentions at work, in us and around us, guiding our present reality.

Instead of letting negative circumstances and illness just happen to us, we should embrace the power of mindfulness, allowing ourselves to instead happen to the universe around us. The awareness of our bodily functions, our breathing, our thinking, our motives and the way we treat others helps us be mindful and aware, putting us in the driver seat of determining our paths through life.

Research recently presented at the American Association of Diabetes Educators Annual Meeting & Exhibition showed that positive mindfulness training can help improve diabetes symptoms and blood sugar levels. The research was carried out on 28 veterans with type 1 and type 2 diabetes at the VA Healthcare System in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, as part of the Mindful Stress Reduction in Diabetes Education program (Mind-STRIDE).

Diabetes-related stress falls significantly in veterans during mindfulness training and deep breathing meditation

Diabetes, a metabolic disorder where the body doesn't effectively process glucose, affects more than 29 million Americans (or 1 in 10). In the US veteran population, over 25 percent currently have diabetes. In the study, researchers wanted to see how mindfulness training works on helping the body better regulate blood glucose levels. The researchers understood that many diabetes patients perpetuate their condition because they have persistent feelings of unease and worry about the daily demands of caring for their diabetes. This diabetes-related distress only complicates the problem more and more.

When the 28 veterans began the mindfulness training, they learned how self-induced stress makes the condition worse. They were also taught stress reduction techniques which included mindful deep breathing. They learned how to develop focused attention and how to separate thoughts from body sensations, learning the power that reactive emotions have on stress levels. The meditation sessions helped them improve their body awareness and be "more present," as they gained control of their thinking patterns. For three months, the veterans practiced focused breathing and mindful movement for 15 minutes each day. The program also included a CD that the veterans took home to continue their meditation techniques.

"The veterans were much more receptive to mindfulness training than we anticipated," said Monica M. DiNardo, Ph.D., health scientist at the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System. "We were surprised at the dramatic decrease in diabetes-related stress. The veterans said the more mindful they were, the better they were able to manage their diabetes."

Veterans' glucose levels drop dramatically as diabetes-related distress falls 41 percent

Before the classes began, Dr. DiNardo and her colleagues gave scientifically validated questionnaires to the veterans to measure their diabetes-related distress and self-management behaviors. The same questionnaire was given one month after the classes and again three months later. Along with the questionnaire, Dr. DiNardo conducted A1C tests that measured glucose concentration in the veteran's blood.

The changes over the course of the training were significant. Three months after mindfulness training, diabetes-related distress for all 28 veterans fell 41 percent!

A1C levels dropped significantly, almost measuring under the ideal 7.0 range. They went from 8.3 before the mindfulness training to 7.3 after the classes. On top of that, veterans completed diabetes self-management goals with more efficiency after the training. They were better problem solvers, began to eat healthier, were more active and coped better with stress.

"We got lots of positive comments from the veterans," said Dr. DiNardo. "Some said they were originally skeptical, but tried it and it worked. Others said they found it gave them a different way to approach their thinking about diabetes that helped them feel better about themselves."

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