By Anna Hicks
With the winter season well under way, anticipation is building for spring as we approach the back half of winter, the home stretch! For individuals with diabetes, blood sugar levels are more easily manipulated by cold temperatures, so winter weather means taking extra care to maintain daily routines and placing heightened attention to treatment plans.
How do cold temperatures affect blood sugar levels?
During the winter months, glycated hemoglobin levels tend to be higher in individuals with diabetes. Glycated hemoglobin, commonly referred to as HbA1c, is formed when hemoglobin, a protein charged with the responsibility of carrying oxygen through the blood, is joined with glucose in the blood and is measured in order to look at average blood sugar levels for a period of weeks or months.
Adopt these tips for managing your blood sugar when the weather turns cold:
1. Keep your hands and feet warm – If you have circulation problems due to diabetes, bundle up and pay extra attention to keeping your hands and feet warm. Using a touch screen insulin pump with continuous glucose monitoring will ease the inconvenience of constant glucose monitoring through finger pricks and injections in colder temperatures and being able to see important information all on one screen reduces the number of devices you have to interact with. This can will help you keep your hands warm and well protected while caring for your glucose levels.
2. Stick to your diet – ‘Tis the season to savor holiday cooking and sticking to a diabetes-friendly diet may prove challenging. Our bodies naturally urge us to gain a little bit of weight to help us fair the season. With these temptations in mind, it will be more important to prepare your own meals, and to carry your own snacks for those times when holiday shopping hunger hits.
3. Adapt your exercise routine – The days are now darker, longer, so staying motivated to keep an exercise routine may prove difficult. There are numerous ways to exercise indoors. Try joining a gym or a yoga studio, both of which provide numerous options for creating a varied workout routine. If leaving your home in the winter is difficult, there is also the possibility of experimenting with exercises that can be done in your home, such as a routine that involves the stairs.
4. Avoid the cold and flu – Contracting a cold or the flu can cause sugar levels to rise. The stress your body endures trying to fight off these viruses makes it difficult for your body to properly manage your sugar levels. If you opt out of getting the flu vaccines, help strengthen your immune system by maintaining a healthy diet and bundling up to keep warm with a few extra layers. Practice good hygiene and wash your hands frequently to avoid contracting a virus from a sick co-worker, friend or family member.
The winter season is a fun time to spend with friends and family, especially during the holiday season. While routines to maintain your blood sugar can be a nuisance, tweaking those routines can help make the winter months easiery to navigate. Always be sure to speak with your physician before adopting a new diet or exercise routine. Your healthcare provider will be able to present you with options that best fit your lifestyle and your treatment plan.