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Chilly challenges: 5 tips for managing diabetes in winter

Nov. 9, 2023—Many people look at winter as the season of coziness and comfort food. But for those with diabetes, winter also means taking extra care to keep the condition under control. Here are five ways winter affects people with diabetes—and tips to help you stay healthy, with advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other experts.

1. Flu is more dangerous for people with diabetes. According to CDC, even people who manage their diabetes well are at higher risk for serious complications from the flu. And when you're sick with the flu, it's harder to control your blood sugar.

Tip: CDC recommends that people with diabetes get a flu shot every year. It's not too late to get yours today! And remember to opt for the shot: In general, the nasal spray flu vaccine isn't right for people with diabetes, says CDC.

2. Holiday foods can challenge the best-laid meal plans. Foods that are high in sugar and fat are plentiful this time of year. And holiday gatherings can make them hard to resist.

Tip: You can still enjoy your favorite treats, but keep your portions small, eat slowly and stop when you're full. If you overindulge at one meal, start over with healthy eating at the next meal. Check out this quick infographic for more tips on handling diabetes challenges over the holidays.

3. Cold weather can cause blood sugar to go up. Your body becomes stressed in cold weather and releases stress hormones to increase your energy. These hormones lower the production of insulin and cause your liver to create more glucose. As a result, your blood sugar goes up.

Tip: Dress in layers to stay warm. Check your blood sugar regularly, and warm your hands to make testing more comfortable. Take extra care with insulin storage when temperatures are low: Make sure it stays cool but doesn't freeze.

4. Winter's dry air can cause skin problems. It's common to have dry, itchy skin during winter. But dry skin can lead to cracks, which can become infected. This is dangerous for people with diabetes.

Tip: Examine your skin and feet every day, and treat any skin problems quickly. Keep showers short, and use mild soap. Apply lotion after showering to prevent dryness and protect your skin.

5. You may be less motivated to exercise when it's cold. Daily physical activity helps you keep your blood sugar levels under control, but you may not want to expose yourself to the weather.

Tip: If you don't feel like going outside, stream an online exercise class, roll out your yoga mat or dance to your favorite music. It's OK to break up your activity into small increments throughout the day.


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