Weathering Diabetes: The Cold Can Impact Blood Sugar Levels and What to Do About It

glucose monitor and test strips

Diabetes is caused by difficulty producing or using insulin, the hormone responsible for regulating glucose. Diabetes sufferers are often very alert to their overall health, since self-management of the condition is so important.

But did you know the weather can have a significant effect on blood glucose?

It's true – cold weather can impact insulin needs. That's especially true of long, cold Illinois winters! When the temperature outside changes, review the facts about diabetes and body temperature so you can protect your health.

Diabetes and Body Temperature

For most of the year, insulin requirements tend to be more or less stable. Cold weather, however, can raise insulin needs. When warm weather comes on suddenly, by contrast, insulin demands might drop below the norm for a short time.

Diabetes sufferers should be especially alert in peak winter and summer months. Extreme temperatures cause changes in the body that may lead to a drop or spike in blood sugar. During these times, testing blood glucose levels regularly is essential.

Other steps you can take include:

Keep Your Feet Warm, Dry and Safe

Diabetes sufferers are prone to problems with their feet. Poor blood circulation can cause a number of secondary problems, and injuries to the feet may take a long time to heal. Always wear dry, sturdy shoes that will protect your feet from snow and ice.

Maintain Regular Physical Activity

Physical activity is a great way to support healthy insulin levels. Moderate exercise for even as little as 15 minutes can increase insulin sensitivity, sharpen your thoughts and improve your mood. Remember, activity can affect your blood glucose levels for up to 48 hours.

Keep Your Hands Warm

Sometimes, it's difficult to get an accurate blood sugar reading in the cold. Before taking a reading, wash your hands with warm water: Most blood glucose meters are intended to operate above 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Consider wearing gloves if your hands feel cold frequently.

Be Careful at the Dinner Table

Diabetes is easier to manage at a healthy weight. While most people do gain some weight around the holidays, it's important to enjoy your holiday feast in moderation. Take frequent breaks so you have the chance to feel full before you decide on having seconds.

SwedishAmerican Hospital

At SwedishAmerican Hospital, we offer a variety of resources for those with diabetes. To find out more, contact us.