Summer Tips for Diabetics: Beat the August Heat

How can heat affect your diabetes? If you have type 2, you can be more sensitive to the heat and have more risks involved with the intense summer ...

How can heat affect your diabetes?

If you have type 2, you can be more sensitive to the heat and have more risks involved with the intense summer temperatures. Certain diabetes complications, such as damage to blood vessels and nerves, can affect your sweat glands so your body can’t cool as effectively. That can lead to heat exhaustion and heat stroke, which is a medical emergency.

Heat exhaustion can develop when the body finds it difficult to keep cool. Symptoms include headaches, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, tiredness, muscle cramps, stomach cramps and pale skin. As some of these could also be due to unstable blood sugar levels, it's important to test regularly. Heat exhaustion needs immediate treatment. So how can we stay our healthiest and happiest as we enjoy our hottest days of the year?

Keep Cool

Look for shade, water, and plants - Shade, being by the water or being in nature vs. concrete are all natural buffers to the heat. An article from SunSentinel reminds us that, Shade doesn't actually make temperatures cooler. Rather, being in direct sunlight and solar radiation makes the air feel 10 to 15 degrees warmer than it actually is, said Jim Lushine, a retired weather service meteorologist. "So, conversely, it would feel that much cooler in the shade," he said. Similarly, when the ocean breeze comes up, temperatures will feel 4 to 5 degrees cooler, particularly if you've been sweating. And if you're looking for yet another means to buffer the outside heat, find some grass. It will feel a few degrees cooler than the heat rising off of pavement, Lushine said. So look for the shade wherever you are or bring it with you! Wearing your hat, and carrying an umbrella, can make a huge difference in the heat you experience on an August day. 

Exercise early and late - Morning workouts have incredible benefits including increased metabolism, improved physical and mental energy, higher success rate in consistency and results, stronger self discipline and better sleep! Additionally, exercising in the morning (or evening) is much more comfortable and doable in these summer months. Beat the heat by waking up early and starting your day off right!

Keep your medications cool! - When damaged by heat, clear insulin generally becomes cloudy and cloudy insulin becomes grainy and sticks to the side of the glass. Insulin that has been exposed to bright sunlight sometimes has a brownish colour. Do not use insulin that looks like this. Speak to your GP or a healthcare professional if you're unsure. Blood glucose meters and test strips (no refrigerators for these) and other medications are also sensitive to heat. Find a cool place to store medications and try not to leave them in direct sun, or a hot car! Many medications can be refrigerated but normal room temperature is the safest and best storage. 

Avoid Sunburn

Apply sunscreen to exposed areas of your body 15 to 30 minutes before going out in the sun. Think of sunscreen as your foundational level of sun protection.  Wearing protective clothing such as long sleeves, loose pants, a hat and sunglasses with a UV 400 label are also key to protecting yourself against harmful UV rays. You can also protect your eyes and enjoy the view on sunny days, by investing in a pair of polarized sunglasses. Polarized sunglasses are specialized eyewear designed to reduce glare from surfaces such as water, snow, and glass. Lastly, remember how hot the ground can get. If you have neuropathy, you may not be aware of your feet burning, so wear sunscreen and flip flops on hot ground.

Avoid Dehydration

It may seem obvious, but drink water! When it’s hot, you sweat more as your body tries to cool off. Extreme sweating can lead to dehydration, and dehydration can lead to higher blood sugars, says Joanne Rinker, MS, RD, CDE, LDN, senior director for community health improvement for Population Health Improvement Partners in North Carolina and a spokesperson for the American Association of Diabetes Educators. Eat water rich foods like Cucumbers - 96.73% water, Celery - 95.43% water and Tomatoes - 94.52% water and avoid the fried, sugary and salty ones. Remember, even though summer is a great time to kick back and enjoy a summer spirit monitor alcohol, caffeine and alcohol are both dehydrating. Enjoy alcohol in moderation. 

Beat the August heat by keeping cool, finding the shade and hydrating every day! For more information on living your healthiest summer, Join the Winning Type 2 Diabetes Together community on Facebook and connect with thousands of other diabetics around the world.