Mindfulness can help diabetes sufferers

James Cook University researchers have found practising mindfulness techniques can have positive effects for diabetes sufferers.

Dr Wendy Li is an Associate Professor of Psychology and Associate Dean for Research in the College of Healthcare Sciences at JCU. She is one of the authors of a paper that analysed studies tracking the effects of mindfulness on people with diabetes.

“Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is a clinically standardised intervention encouraging people to adopt the perspective of openness, curiosity, and acceptance of what is occurring in the present moment with a nonjudgmental attitude,” said Dr Li.

She said over time, poorly controlled diabetes leads to complications including coronary artery disease.

“Diabetes is also associated with mental health problems, including stress, anxiety, and depression. Multiple factors, such as being overwhelmed by the daily burden of diabetes management often lead to patients having high levels of chronic stress and neglecting their self-care,” said Dr Li.

She said there was a physiological ‘vicious circle’ where stress released cortisol into the body which hampered the effect of insulin, leading to elevated blood glucose levels in diabetes sufferers.

“Our aim was to determine if MBSR had a beneficial effect on mental health, HbA1C (blood test levels that measure how well diabetes is being controlled) and mindfulness of diabetes patients,” said Dr Li.

Scientists took measurements immediately after the mindfulness course had concluded and in a follow-up some months later.

“MBSR reduced anxiety and depressive symptoms over the long term and enhanced mindfulness. The impact on reducing stress was more mixed and HbA1C was not affected by the intervention,” said Dr Li.

She said the findings suggest MBSR appears to be an effective treatment for improving mental health conditions and mindfulness in people with diabetes.

“The cultivation of mindfulness is likely to lead to nonreactive acceptance of diabetes, which may in turn contribute to positive treatment outcomes,” said Dr Li.

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