How winter affects diabetes

Cold weather can make A1C levels rise. Use these tips to keep your blood sugar stable when the temperature dips.

Photo: Man smiling outside in cold weather

Your glycated hemoglobin (A1C) levels — a key indicator of diabetes — can be higher in the winter months. The culprit? It’s not holiday treats necessarily, but the cold. And while it isn’t clear why, it may be because your blood pressure tends to rise in response to the drop in temperature.

If you live in a cold winter climate that means one thing: You’ll want to closely monitor your blood sugar levels at regular intervals and stick to the parameters of your healthy eating plan. Here are some tips to staying healthy during the winter months:

1. Pay attention to temperatures
It isn’t just how cold it is outside that will affect your readings, but also the temperature of your hands, meter, and feet. Carrying your strips and meter in your clothes will keep them warm. Your meter works best when it’s kept between 50 and 104 degrees Fahrenheit and your fingers are warm. Cold hands affect your blood sugar reading.

As for your feet, diabetes affects your blood circulation to them. Make sure to keep them warm by wearing the proper footwear and socks.

2. Stay active
It’s understandably harder to get outside for a walk when it’s freezing, so you may need to get creative to stay active. Of course, you can walk indoors, either by yourself, with friends, or with a group, at indoor shopping centers or similar venues.

3. Buddy up
We can become more isolated in the winter, so it’s more important than ever to reach out to friends and family. Recruit someone who will help you stay on track. You can make a pact to be accountable to one another when it comes to eating right and being active. Swap winter recipes, make plans to walk a new trail or indoor center, or take a fitness class together.

Did you know?
Stress affects diabetes. It may cause stress hormone levels to rise, which can raise blood sugar levels.

Stop overeating in social settings by putting down your fork between bites. This allows the brain to recognize each bite.