Diabetes and Cold Weather

Cold weather can be fun but can also make blood testing difficult
Cold weather can be fun but can also make blood testing difficult

Over the winter months diabetic patients of all diabetes types tend to have higher HbA1c levels than during the warmer months. With snow, ice and frost all threatening, sugar levels can creep up whilst the temperature drops.

With this in mind, we've compiled some tips to help keep your blood glucose levels under control during a cold snap.

Keep testing your blood

The cold weather can leave you with cold hands which can make blood testing more difficult. Don't let the cold put you off doing your tests though.

Regular testing will help you to catch any highs, or lows, and keep your sugar levels under control. If your hands are cold, try warming them up on a warm mug or on a radiator with a towel or thick clothing over it, before doing your test.

Keep your activity levels up

Even just a little physical activity each day can help your glucose levels in a number of supporting ways.

  • increasing insulin sensitivity
  • keeping you warm
  • good for the mind

A little activity each day will help with insulin sensitivity (in all types of diabetes) which can help the body to better regulate sugar levels.

Particularly if you are using insulin, keep a watch of your blood sugar levels in case your insulin requirements go down. Bear in mind that activity can affect blood glucose for up to 48 hours.

A little bit of exercise helps to keep you warm. We all know that whilst exercising we heat up, but the effects don't stop as soon as we stop exercising.

We may feel cooler after stopping, if we've built up a sweat, but the longer term effects of exercise is to help with metabolism which can help to keep our body temperature up even hours after exercise and helps improve fitness levels.

If you tend to feel cold during the winter months, a little more activity in your day could be just the thing.

The saying 'healthy body, healthy mind' rings true. If you keep your body active you'll find the mind stays more active too. With a fresh feeling mind you'll be able to cope with more of the rigours of the day and be in a better position to make decisions in the management of your diabetes.

If the cold outside puts you off exercising, expend some energy inside the home. Dancing, jumping, indoor aerobics, yoga, tai chi, climbing the stairs a few times and even a bit of house work will all get your muscles working. Even games on consoles like the Nintendo Wii or Xbox Kinect can help you to get active in the comfort of your living room.

Keep an eye on your diet

Colder weather can affect your diet in a number of ways. People tend to eat more during the winter, are more likely to eat 'comfort foods' and cold trips to the shops may give way to ordering takeaways.
Your body may ask for more calories to fuel itself against the cold, this is a natural response from the body, just make sure you don't over eat and stick to right foods and avoid so-called diabetic food.

The best foods are those that are the most natural.

Ready meals, takeaways and snacks tend to have short term satisfaction, often leaving you hungry again within 2 or 3 hours. Low fat options are often recommended as a lower calorie option but check the carbohydrate content as well, as the reduction in fat in some meals may be compensated with extra carbohydrates.

Home cooked meals and natural snacks such as fruit and nuts are a great basis for a healthy diet, regardless of the season

Visiting the shops is a good way to get some extra activity into your day, just make sure you wrap up warm and take some warm gloves for carrying those shopping bags.

Keep illness at bay

Becoming ill makes diabetes harder to control.

You'll feel less well, have less energy, and just to make things worse, sugar levels often rise significantly higher in response to colds, flus and viruses.

To prevent illnesses from taking hold, keep yourself warm, eat healthily and keep a watch over your sugar levels for any rising trends in sugar levels.

Also, to guard against catching influenza, book yourself in for a flu jab. The NHS will generally provide these for free to all diabetics.

Keep depression out in the cold

The winter period sees many people feeling blue. Cold, unpleasant weather, a lack of sunlight and money worries can all contribute to a drop in mood over the colder months. If you can keep to as much of the advice above, you'll be in a good position to keep the winter blues at a greater distance.

If despite your best efforts you're finding the winter tough, one of the most highly recommended ways to keep depression under control is to reach out to others.

Having a good talk with family and friends can make a real difference to your mood, and if you want to talk about anything involving your diabetes or even to chat and joke with others with diabetes, there's always the Diabetes Forum.

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