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Questions Diabetics Ask in Winter

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Winter is just around the corner so I thought I'll put up an excerpt from a conversation that I had which would be helpful to diabetics during winter time.

Does climate in any way, direct or indirect, affect diabetes?

Warm and Cold temperatures have no direct effect on diabetes control but can affect it indirectly.While your blood sugar doesn't go up or down in response to hot or cold outdoor temperatures, it does have an impact on eating and exercise habits, which is a key factor in controlling your blood sugar levels.In warm temperatures, the body can be stressed due to heat and high humidity. And this can throw the blood sugar levels out of control.For those who are on insulin, storing it becomes a problem in warm climates as improper temperatures can destroy insulin and it won't work effectively if it is not stored correctly.Winter season according to some studies is a cause for depression and anxiety, which is a stressful state for the body and stress can in turn, affect blood-sugar levels.

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Generally people tend to eat more during winter. They also snack more. In such circumstances should diabetics take special precautions?

Only disciplined and responsible eating can help a diabetic control their blood sugar levels. There is no real harm with snacking when you are hungry but the key is to snack on healthy alternatives that only a good dietician can guide you on.

During winter, it is sometimes difficult to exercise because of the cold. Diabetics are supposed to regularly exercise. What do they do?

For those who find it difficult to exercise in the cold they can try other options such as:

  • Heated pools: Swimming in a heated pool is a great way to stay active in cold weather. Swimming is an ideal full body exercise for those who have a lot of weight as they can exercise without risking damage to their joints.
  • Working out at a Gym: Gyms offer many ways to keep moving indoors, from aerobics classes to weight machine circuits. Winter might also be a good time to test a trial membership. Studies have shown that weight training in diabetics helps tone muscles and keeps bones strong and healthy.
  • Exercising at home: It's easy to be active even without leaving home.
  • Housework: Routine house work can be exercise, and you will end up with a neat and tidy house in the bargain. Playing fast-paced music may also help.
  • Exercise videos: Videos can help people stay focused, teach new moves and provide good warm-up and cool-down periods. Exercise videos made especially for people with diabetes are available. Online videos are available which people can easily download and use.

All people who exercise need to remember to drink clean water or electrolyte replenishing fluids and avoid sugary drinks.

In places like Delhi, Chandigarh, Jammu temperatures dip to near zero and in south in Hyderabad and Bangalore, the temperature goes below 10 degrees C. What are the precautions that diabetics should take in terms of skin care, diet, sleep, protection etc.

Winter brings special challenges to people with diabetes.

  • Keep yourself warm. Wear layers of clothes. Staying warm requires that you trap warm, dry air next to the body.
  • Watch your weight. Winter can mean an extra 2-5 kilos for many people. This is risky as weight gain increases your risk of heart disease.
  • Diabetes-related circulation and nerve problems can mean icy cold feet. Don't use hot-water bottles, but rather just wear layers of socks to keep your toes warm.
  • Drink lots of water as people who are dehydrated will send their sugar levels up
  • Stay relaxed as stress leads to high sugar levels. For those whom stress is a routine occurrence, they should learn and practice relaxation exercises to combat stress.
  • Don't ever guess your sugar levels. Sometimes we all feel lazy and guess our sugar levels instead of testing it on the glucometer. This is not the recommended option. Always test your blood sugar levels and then take your medicines. Every once a year show your doctor how you test your blood sugar and confirm that you are doing it correctly.
  • When the weather gets cold, old aged individuals who have a decreased ability to control body temperature and a less body fat have more chance to face a drop in body temperature. Such people and their care takers should take more care to prevent this from happening.

  Are diabetics more vulnerable to extreme cold conditions?

There is not much difference in terms of vulnerability to cold for a normal diabetic compared to a normal person. But those diabetics who have begun to lose sensation in their hands and feet need to be very careful as the cold can cause damage to the hands or feet areas and the person won't even feel the damage at the time.

This is also a season when people tend to consume alcohol more to ward off cold. Is alcohol harmful to diabetics even in limited quantity? Is there any threshold limit?

Contrary to popular belief alcohol does not keep you warm. It actually makes you lose more heat than usual. This is because it dilates blood vessels and in winter dilated blood vessels allow more heat to escape from the body compared to normal.Another thing for diabetics to remember is that alcohol reduces your blood sugar levels quite quickly so always eat some healthy snacks along with your drinks. The safe threshold limit is one drink for a woman and two drinks for a man per day. Anything more will have cancel out any beneficial effects of alcohol on the body.

In case people eat more and also occasionally drink, how often should they go for check ups?

Normally the doctor who is supervising your diabetes treatment will decide who often you have to visit him. In addition to those normal visits that can be once in a week to once in a month or even once in 3 months, you have to visit other specialist doctors one in a year or in case you have any problems more often.

What about juvenile diabetics and winter? Any special care or precautions to be taken?

Juvenile diabetic is an older term for Type 1 diabetic. There are clinical studies that have found that environmental triggers contribute to the onset of diabetes in people. More people are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes during winter months as well as in colder climates in general, so cold weather is a suspected environmental trigger for developing type 1 diabetes. Therefore to sum it up Type 1 diabetics should follow all recommendations for the control of blood sugar levels that all diabetics should follow.

Any other comments, suggestions for our readers?

Visit your primary doctor who treats you for Diabetes, once a month or at least once in 3 months.

You have to visit other specialist doctors like you eye specialist, dentist e.t.c. once a year normally or more often if suggested by the specialist.

Dr Sherry Chandy is a Medical Domain Specialist at Yos Technologies.

He is a medical doctor and ophthalmologist by profession with special interests in enabling better health care through the use of information technology.


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For more such useful information and diabetes care tools which help you to Control Diabetes effectively and to see a video of me explaining the six steps to control your blood sugar levels go to []

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