Approaching fall and winter, longer, active summer days are coming to a close and are followed by cravings for heavier foods, increased time spent inactive/ indoors and, unfortunately, the annual cold and flu season.

Throughout the hibernation months, with all of the metabolic factors at play, there’s a management challenge at hand for people living with any type of diabetes. Changes in habits always have a direct impact on disease management because the two go hand in hand.

Get a Plan and Stick with It

Approaching winter months with a plan may be the best preventative medicine (shy of moving closer to the equator or mimicking a summer routine all year long).

  1. Keep testing! Cold hands may be a put-off in winter months, but it’s impossible to manage diabetes without knowing the numbers.

  2. Keep activity levels up; exercise increases insulin sensitivity and promotes better disease management. Always be sure to check with your health care professional prior to starting a new exercise program.

  3. Plan your weekly menu to ensure you have a variety of foods—especially fruits and vegetables that may be less appealing during cold winter months. Taking a glance at the entire week can be more helpful than shopping day by day to ensure a balanced diet.

  4. Schedule your doctor appointments and be sure to keep them. Shifts in diabetes medications are commonplace as summer rolls into fall—your care provider can help you with needed changes.

  5. Collect data and be sure to bring it along to your appointments or share it in between appointments if blood glucose readings are trending out of their usual safe spots.

  6. Mood matters: Depression is more common in winter months, especially when living with chronic disease; untreated depression may result in issues with diabetes management. Be sure to share with your care provider if you have signs and symptoms of depression.

Research Says…

Many things shift over the fall and winter besides the weather. It’s not just your imagination; researchers have been mapping these changes as well.

Scientists in Japan have identified elevated Hemoglobin A1C levels in sedentary winter months. Ironically, these documented increases in Hemoglobin A1C levels were not partnered with weight gain.

According to The Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology, a study looked at hemispheric differences in Hemoglobin A1c. Researchers found that A1C values are “higher in cooler months and lower in the warmer months in both hemispheres.” In countries that have stable temperatures year round, HbA1C values have a stationary profile all year long.

Living in Phoenix, Arizona, for example, may have opposite effects with increased activity in winter months when temperatures are tolerable and more ‘air conditioning hibernation’ in the desert hot summer months.

Regardless of where you live, most of us experience weather shifts of some kind or another. Being prepared for the changes at hand can help moderate the impact it has on diabetes control. Keeping regularly scheduled appointments to monitor changes in Hemoglobin A1C levels will help you identify seasonal trends in your diabetes control.

To learn more about how to control your blood sugar, especially during the fall and winter seasons:

Avoid the Blood Sugar Extremes for Better Diabetes Control
Surviving the Holidays without Blowing Your Blood Sugar Control
Don't Let Holiday Stress Ruin Your Diabetes Control