If you or a loved one is living with diabetes, you know that taking care of yourself and following the doctor’s advice are year-round tasks. But according to experts, summertime can offer some extra challenges. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tells us that people with diabetes can be more affected by summer heat because:
- They become more easily dehydrated, which can cause blood sugar to spike.
- High temperatures change the way their bodies use insulin.
- Diabetes-related nerve damage causes sweat glands to be less effective, raising the risk of heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
High humidity is also a problem. Evaporating sweat cools us down, but that doesn’t work very well when there’s a lot of moisture in the air.
Here are seven tips for managing blood sugar during the warmest time of year:
- To avoid dehydration, drink plenty of water, even if you’re not thirsty. Avoid alcohol and drinks with caffeine, which can also lead to water loss.
- Stay active, but don’t exercise during the hottest part of the day. If it’s too hot all day, go to an air-conditioned gym or for a mall walk.
- Check your blood sugar before, during and after activity.
- Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, light-colored clothing.
- Sunburn can raise blood sugar levels, so wear sunscreen and a hat.
- If you have diminished sensation in your feet, don’t go barefoot, even at the pool or beach.
- Store insulin safely, and protect your blood sugar monitor, insulin pump and other equipment from heat and direct sun. Ask your doctor about how to use a cooler or insulated bag for insulin.
Heat isn’t the only challenge people with diabetes can face in the summer. The National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP) reminds us that vacations, beach parties and family reunions feature spreads of delicious food that can tempt us to abandon the diet our doctor has recommended. The NDEP offers these tips for sticking to a healthy eating plan:
- At a buffet or picnic, check out what’s available and make a plan before serving yourself. Fill most of your plate with veggies and whole grains, and limit meat to a single portion (the size of a deck of cards). Go for grilled meats over fried, lean meats over fatty barbecue.
- Choose high-fiber foods. Pick green veggies such as broccoli, cabbage and spinach. Bean dishes are almost always a good choice, either green beans or dried. Go for whole grain breads, pastas and rice.
- Watch out for sauces and condiments. A tuna salad is a healthy choice—unless it’s smothered in mayonnaise. Sour cream and butter can make a veggie dish much less healthy. Go easy on the mayo in sandwiches, as well.
- Drink water or an unsweetened beverage instead of soda. The NDEP recommends consuming alcoholic beverages only with a meal, and no more than two for men, and one for women, per day.
- Fruit makes a great dessert. It’s low in calories and high in fiber, vitamins and minerals.
If you’re on the road…
Travel can also make it hard to maintain a diabetes management routine. Here are a few tips from experts:
- We can’t always predict travel delays, so pack twice the amount of diabetes supplies you expect to use.
- Keep time zone changes in mind so you’ll know when to take medications.
- If you check a bag, pack all your diabetes supply in your carry-on.
- Bring nutritious snacks.
Taking a few precautions and being mindful of challenges can help you successfully manage your diabetes treatment regimen while you enjoy a pleasant and healthy summer.
The information in this article is not intended to replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Talk to your doctor if you have questions about how summer plans might affect the management of your diabetes.
Source: IlluminAge AgeWise with information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Diabetes Education Program