Does Cold Weather Affect Diabetes?

Shout-out to Diabetes Social Media Advocacy (DSMA) for prompting me to write a post about this!

Often, I tell people that anything can affect diabetes. Factors like exercise and stress may seem obvious, but more subtle variables include the weather.

The winter season began less than a month ago, but it’s already been a brutal one for much of the country. In New England, we’ve had more than a foot of snow, subzero temperatures, bitter wind chill, and a surplus of ice glazing over all outdoor surfaces.

Winter weather looks pretty, but it sure can be a pain in the ass.

Besides being unpleasant to experience, harsh cold weather like this also has a bit of a negative impact on my diabetes. How? There’s a few different ways.

Cold weather limits (or increases) the types of physical activity I can do. Snowstorms make it difficult to travel, so more often than not, I’m stuck at home during wintry weather events. This means I get less movement in, which has an adverse affect on my blood sugars. I rely on getting a certain level of exercise daily, so I have to be creative when it’s snowing in order to meet these requirements. On the flip side, depending on how much snow falls, I need to shovel the driveway. This is a highly strenuous activity that can make my blood sugar drop in 15 minutes or less. As a result, I’ve got to be careful and plan accordingly when a blizzard is in the forecast.

Cold weather impacts the foods I consume. Let’s be real, when it’s freezing outside and you can’t go anywhere, healthy eating isn’t really a priority. Nothing is as comforting as a home cooked meal, whether it’s chili or chicken pot pie. And a hot chocolate is a wonderful pick-me-up post-shoveling. But the problem is these foods are heavy, rich, and laden with carbs. I have to work harder in the cold weather to attain balance with my eating and resist the temptation to fill up on starchy, satisfying food.

Cold weather affects my insulin intake. This ties into the aforementioned points, because if I’m moving less and eating more, then I naturally need to compensate for this with higher insulin dosages. I get frustrated, because it seems like I have to deal with more high blood sugars this time of year. But I know if I keep these factors in mind, it’ll help keep the highs at bay and prevent me from under-dosing.

Cold weather can sway my mood. The winter blues is a real feeling this time of year. It’s much harder to feel motivated to keep up with exercise routines or other healthy habits when the weather’s got me stranded at home. I combat it by staying busy and keeping a routine as much as I can. And when I fall off the wagon, I acknowledge that it’s okay, dust myself off, and get right back on it.

Even though cold weather brings additional challenges with it, the season is fleeting. Before I know it, spring will be here along with better blood sugar.

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