Blood sugar rise in winter: Top tips for people with diabetes

Many people with diabetes must have noticed blood sugar level rising during winter. Here are some effective ways to manage blood sugar level in winter.
Testing blood sugar levels
Blood sugar level can rise in winter. Image courtesy: Freepik
Natalia Ningthoujam Published: 15 Dec 2023, 08:59 am IST
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Right from skipping breakfast to being stressed to not sleeping enough, anything can make your blood sugar level go up. People with diabetes may even notice blood sugar spikes during colder months. If you have diabetes, keeping your blood sugar level in your target range is a must to avoid health problems. So, manage your blood sugar level in winter with these tips.

Your blood sugar targets may be different, depending on factors like your age and other health problems, as per the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Typical blood sugar targets are:

Before eating food: 80 to 130 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL)
Two hours after starting your meal: Less than 180 mg/dL.

What happens if blood sugar level goes up?

If high blood sugar isn’t controlled, it can cause ketones to build up in the blood and urine which can lead to a condition called ketoacidosis, says internal medicine expert Dr Tushar Tayal. Some of its symptoms are:

• Dry mouth
• Abdominal pain
• Nausea and vomiting
• Blurred vision
• Confusion
• Loss of consciousness

Testing blood sugar
Manage blood sugar level during winter. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

It is important to keep blood sugar under control in diabetics because hyperglycemia can cause long-term complications such as:

• Heart disease
• Damage to blood vessels
• Nerve damage
• Kidney damage
• Retinal damage
• Bone and joint damage

Why does the blood sugar level rise in winter?

There are several reasons why blood sugar level may increase when the temperature drops.

1. Reduced activity

People tend to be less active in the cold months, as they spend more time indoors and avoid outdoor activities due to cold weather. This decreased physical activity leads to a lower demand for glucose, which can cause blood sugar level to increase.

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2. Hormonal changes

Cold weather triggers the release of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones have a counter-regulatory effect on insulin, meaning they reduce the body’s ability to absorb glucose from the bloodstream. This can lead to hyperglycemia, especially in people with diabetes.

3. Increased calorie intake

During winter, people often crave comfort foods that are tasty and generally high in carbohydrates. While carbohydrates provide energy, they can also cause blood sugar spikes followed by crashes.

4. Illness

Winter is the season for colds, flu and other illnesses. When people are sick, their bodies release inflammatory hormones that can also interfere with insulin production and glucose uptake. This can make it more difficult to manage blood sugar level, says the expert.

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How can diabetics manage blood sugar level in winter?

If you are a diabetic, you need to take certain measures to keep your blood sugar under control in winter.

1. Stay warm

Change in environmental temperature can affect the blood sugar adversely. Exposure to intense cold causes release of stress hormones in the body which increase sugar level. So, keep yourself warm by wearing woollen clothes.

blood sugar check
Stay warm to avoid blood sugar spike. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

2. Get your flu shot every year

Recovering from minor illnesses like flu and cold can be difficult for diabetics. And if blood sugar level is not managed, it can be harder. Go for flu vaccination, which can reduce the chance of getting the flu, visits to your doctor’s offices, missed work and school, and severity of illness if you get the flu.

3. Stress management

Winter is associated with higher chances of anxiety and depression, the result of which may be poor self-care and erratic blood sugar level. Do pranayama and yoga regularly, keep yourself mentally engaged and stay socially active, suggests Dr Tayal.

4. Eat more of complex carbohydrates and proteins

There is a tendency to eat more food during winter, especially food rich in refined carbohydrates such as sugar. Maintaining a diet with wholesome nutrition is the key to managing your blood sugar level. Increase intake of vegetables, vegetable soups, nuts and seeds.

5. Portion control

It is okay to indulge in fat-rich foods once in a while, but you must ensure to limit the portion of sugary drinks and snacks so that it doesn’t adversely impact your sugar level.

6. Exercise regularly

It is natural human tendency to want to avoid exercising during winter to avoid exposure to cold. You can add indoor activities to your daily routine such as yoga or Zumba if you can’t go out to exercise. Do not exercise on an empty stomach, as that may cause hypoglycemia. You can have some nuts or a fruit before exercising.

7. Stay hydrated

Indoor heating can often lead to dehydration which has a negative effect on people with diabetes. Try to set a goal of drinking enough water, which is about seven to eight glasses daily. You can have fenugreek water on an empty stomach, but avoid drinking excessive tea and coffee. Alternatively, coconut water and buttermilk can help to stabilise your body’s electrolyte needs.

8. Regular health check-ups

Check your blood sugar level more frequently if you are a diabetic. This way you can adjust your insulin and diet if necessary.

Amid all this, don’t forget to enjoy the winter season!

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About the Author

Natalia Ningthoujam has written on various subjects - from music to films and fashion to lifestyle - as a journalist in her career that started in 2010. After getting stories from the crime scene, police headquarters, and conducting interviews with celebrities, she is now writing on health and wellness which has become her focus area. ...Read More

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