For people living with diabetes, cold weather may make it more difficult to maintain regulated blood sugar levels. Frosty temperatures stress the body, and that stress frequently causes blood sugar levels to rise.
Don’t despair—knowledge is power. And with that in mind, we’ve collected some cold weather tips for diabetes to keep you healthy all season long.
1. Stay warm
Avoid staying outside in cold temperatures for long periods of time. Chilly temperatures tend to thicken the blood and increase the risk for clotting.
When in the cold, bundle up with warm sweaters, scarves, gloves, and other protective gear to keep your body temperature as stable as possible. You might also drink plenty of warm beverages, such as tea.
Another cold weather tip for diabetes: falling mercury levels can damage prescription medications or testing equipment. Keep these items warm and in the house. If you need to take them with you while traveling, store them in the car instead of in the trunk, or in a handbag or backpack and keep them on you to ensure consistent, level temperature exposure.
2. Exercise more frequently
Exercise is a highly effective tool for managing blood sugar levels. It raises the body’s temperature and also helps the body use insulin more efficiently. Exercise is so powerful that it can affect blood sugar for as long as 48 hours after a workout, according to Diabetes.co.uk, an online resource specializing in the condition.
Exercise also invigorates the mind, giving you the energy and can-do spirit needed to take charge of diabetes and stay healthy.
Maintaining an exercise regimen during cold, short days can sometimes be difficult. Ideas for staying active include joining a gym and hopping on the elliptical, treadmill, or taking an aerobics class. YouTube offers a wealth of free exercise videos featuring a vast array of methods—you’ll find yoga, dance, cardio, and more. You might even find an indoor tennis court or join a specialty gym, like one offering CrossFit or barre classes.
3. Eat warming, healthy foods
Eating healthy somehow seems easier during the summer time, with sweet berries, fabulous produce, and fresh salads. Sure, salads are available in the wintertime, but many people find them less palatable in the cold weather.
Then, fall strikes and we’re confronted with holiday celebrations, comfort food cravings, and all kinds of foods that threaten to send blood sugar skyrocketing.
Fortunately, comfort food can be healthy. You might make a delicious, healthy soup or cook a tasty stir-fry with sweet potatoes, your favorite vegetables, and perhaps salmon.
Sweet potatoes, by their name, may sound like a diabetic nightmare, but these tasty vegetables offer a bounty of antioxidants and important vitamins such as A, C, and B6. Despite the word “sweet” in the name, these potatoes are a low-glycemic food, which means they don’t cause spikes in blood sugar, according to researchers at North Carolina State University.
Eating healthy, filling foods, such as these will help you fend off cravings for the unhealthy sweets and comfort food floating around during wintertime.
Simple cold weather tips for diabetes like this will help keep you healthy during what for many is a season of weight gain and bloat.
4. Manage stress
Wintertime ushers in festivities, but it can also cause a lot of stress. Holiday planning often requires detailed organization, figuring out travel plans or needs for hosting. Navigating these and other events is sure to raise levels of cortisol, a stress hormone.
Stress also impacts blood sugar levels, so it’s important for people with diabetes to make every effort to keep life a little calmer. That may mean asking for help with shopping, cooking, and other duties.
You may decide to spend more on groceries by buying pre-chopped food, if that’s an option for your budget. Pre-washed or cut produce dramatically reduces the amount of cooking preparation time and simplifies eating healthy.
Exercise is also a fantastic tool for managing stress, and another one of our cold weather tips for diabetes. Whatever tools you have found helpful for managing stress, commit to them for the season to ensure it passes with as little chaos as possible.
5. Drink plenty of water
Hydration is essential for managing blood sugar levels. During the summer, hot temperatures more naturally remind us to drink water and stay hydrated.
In cooler temperatures, however, it’s easy to forget about drinking water and become dehydration. Women should aim for about nine, eight-ounce cups of water daily while men should shoot for about 13 cups, according to Mayo Clinic.
Adequate water intake is especially important if you’re exercising since sweat is water leaving the body.
6. Keep the feet warm
Many people with diabetes develop painful nerve damage in the feet known as neuropathy. This nerve damage can make it difficult to feel sensation, including cold feet.
However, keeping blood flow to the extremities is important for making sure the cells receive proper nutrients to stay healthy. Keep the feet warm by wearing socks or slippers, even while sleeping. This is a very important cold weather tip for diabetes.
Avoid placing hot water bottles on the feet or electric blankets, advises United Health Group. These items can damage the feet while socks will help lock in internal warmth.
7. Try to avoid getting sick
This cold weather tip for diabetes is perhaps easier said than done, but an important one to aim for. Consider asking your doctor about flu vaccines to stay healthy. Other ways to ward off the cold and flu involve eating healthy, getting plenty of rest, and reducing stress.
Be sure to wash the hands frequently with soap and hot water. Drinking hot tea with lemon or eating foods with lots of garlic are other ways to stay well.
Illness is in itself a stressor to the body, which can elevate blood sugar levels, according to Everyday Health. Also, coming down with a cold or flu makes it difficult to maintain other self-care behaviors, such as eating well and exercising.
What are your cold weather tips for diabetes?
Image by Carl Wycoff via Flickr