According to several studies, the largest number of diabetes diagnoses take place during the colder months of the year. Here's another fact: Finland, and other colder areas in the world, have the largest number of people with type type 1 diabetes. So, what exactly is this relationship between the cold and diabetes?
One theory says type 1 diabetes is not a disease but actually, an adaptation to the cold triggered by evolution to help human beings cope with adverse conditions.This finds a quick explanation by looking back to the prehistoric days when there was a severe drop in temperature, called the Ice Age.
In only a few years temperatures began dropping violently and there were thousands of humans who found death, but the species itself was able to withstand the cold. But what kind of relation does this have with diabetes? Well, we need to skip more than a couple thousands of years to find the answer.
About 400 years ago it was noted by Dr. Moalem that wine made with nearly-frozen or even frozen grapes was way sweeter than common wines. Why? Well, when a grape starts freezing, its body reduces water in order to prevent ice crystals to be formed on the inside of the said grape; and it also raises the sugar concentration in the place where there used to be water because sugar is a natural anti-freeze substance. For this reason, grapes are never actually frozen on the inside.
Taking into account this unique phenomenon seen in grapes, it becomes quite logical that the human body is able to adapt the same way. But in order to double-check this theory, in another study, a frog was exposed to really low temperatures and after examining its body it was found out that he started to slowly move water out of its bloodstream and even from its organ cells in order to avoid freezing. It was found that its liver dumped massive amounts of glucose as well, increasing its blood sugar level consistently.
Due to these examples, experts believe that evolution may have helped human beings living in the European continent withstand low temperatures by increasing glucose in their bloodstream.
How can cold weather affect someone with diabetes?
The truth is that there are many different ways that someone with diabetes can be affected, some examples are:
- Low defences: most people tend to get sick when being exposed to high temperatures they are not used to. When someone is sick, blood sugar levels tend to rise without them even noticing it is happening. The best option for these people is to try to dodge the flu by getting their annual vaccine and washing their hands quite often. It is also important to dry themselves well after taking a shower since getting wet and then being exposed to low temperatures tends to trigger the flu.
- Not feeling motivated to do exercise: it is normal that people feel less comfortable doing exercise when temperatures are low. Running and walking outdoors can be very tough during these conditions. The best option for these people is to try an indoors exercise routine probably at home or in the gym.
- Blood sugar tests hurt: people with diabetes usually do not want to test their blood sugar when their fingers are cold because it hurts. Also, experts say blood sugar monitors are less accurate in cold weather than they are in warm weather. Nonetheless, it is important that people with diabetes monitor their blood sugar levels regardless of the weather conditions.
Tips to keep diabetes under control with the weather
These are some tips that can be helpful when looking to keep blood levels under control while being exposed to low temperatures:
- Protect your immune system: As it was mentioned before, winter is known as the flu season, talking to the doctor, taking some vitamin C pills and getting your vaccination to avoid the flu are some precautions that can be taken into account when the coldest season of the year begins.
- Keep all monitors and insulin blisters out of the cold: Like many other types of medications, insulin should not be exposed to extreme temperatures. Insulin solutions tend to freeze near 32 degrees Fahrenheit. For people that need to go outside, inevitably being exposed to extreme temperatures, it is recommended to keep the insulin pump close to the body where natural heat can be transmitted to the pump. It is also important to cover it with an accessory.
- Testing blood sugar levels is essential: It is important to remain brave regardless of weather conditions and test blood sugar levels since it is the only way people can be aware of their current situation and glucose levels. There are some solutions that can be taken into account, wearing gloves is a great option when looking to keep hands warm, wearing gloves is an easy way to keep hands warm like holding a warm mug or rubbing their hands before testing. The importance of these tests requires being highlighted since blood glucose levels cannot be guessed and monitoring needs to be accurate in order to make proper decisions.
- Beat the winter blues: Although holidays can be very stressful, it is important to keep emotions and moods under control. Being able to exercise, having a proper schedule, eating well and being cheerful about having relatives and friends nearby. Depression and anxiety need to be discussed with a healthcare expert that can help them in their situation.
- Keeping an eye on your feet: During the winter season, the air can dry feet and crack their skin, opening wounds that can catch infections and bacteria if they are not taken care of. Winter footwear is needed in order to keep feet under protection and apply creams and moisturizers. It is important to inspect your feet on a daily basis, noticing an injury that is not healing needs to be checked by a healthcare expert as soon as possible.
- Never stop moving: Standing still or a lack of movement can make it easier for the cold to wreck havoc on your immune system. It is important to keep yourself warm and constantly moving when you are outside of the house. Winter sports are also a great option for to keep the body moving while having fun in the winter.