Mindfulness meditation and deep breathing exercises don’t sound like something that would appeal to veterans, but a new study suggests that these techniques can help people with diabetes control their blood sugar. A pilot study at the Pittsburgh Veterans Affairs hospital taught vets stress reduction techniques. They practiced mindful movement and focused breathing and were instructed to do so for 15 minutes a day at home.
After three months of home practice, the veterans’ management of their diabetes had improved significantly. Their HbA1c, a marker of blood sugar control, had dropped from 8.3 to 7.3 on average. The investigators were pleasantly surprised that veterans who had been skeptical at first found that this new approach worked so well.
[American Association of Diabetes Educators Aug 6-9, 2014]
Any time an intervention without serious side effects can improve HbA1c this much, we cheer. We don’t know whether the VA and other health care institutions can make this appealing enough so that others beyond the small group of veterans who participated in the pilot will be willing to learn the techniques. Doctors have long known that stress makes blood sugar control much more difficult, but have not had great ways to help people reduce their stress. Now that they do, let’s hope the techniques become widely used.
To learn more about blood sugar control, you may wish to consult our Guide to Managing Diabetes.