Winter tips for diabetics

Novo Nordisk South Africa shares five winter tips for diabetics.

Beanies, gloves, boots and jackets. These are the clothing items that help us keep warm during the cold winter months we find ourselves in currently. Coupled with heaters and hot beverages, many of us feel ready to brave the cold and chilly days ahead.

For people living with diabetes, winter is a time of adjustments. This is because during colder months diabetes patients have higher HbA1c levels than over the warmer months.[1]This increase can be attributed to changes in their diet and exercise, and the prevalence of colds and flu[2]. Therefore, people living with diabetes need to be extra vigilant and adjust their management plans during the colder months. Here are some tips and tricks to help you get through winter:

  1. Keep testing your blood sugar levels

Did you know that cold hands can make testing your blood glucose levels difficult? The trick is to try and warm your hands before you do the blood glucose test. Testing regularly will assist with catching any highs, or lows, and keep your sugar levels under control[3].

  1. Keep active even in the cold

Keeping active is important. Even though all you may want to do is stay indoors, under warm blankets and heaps of clothing. Even if the amount of physical exercise decreases, that is okay. As long as you do some form of exercise. It will help keep your blood glucose levels under control and keeps you warm in the process.

You can even start an indoor workout routine if bracing the cold doesn’t sound very appealing. A little activity each day will help with insulin sensitivity (in all types of diabetes) which can help the body to better regulate sugar levels[4].

  1. Watch what you eat

Winter food can be thought of as ‘comfort food’ because our bodies may require extra intakes to defend itself against the cold. So, where possible, stick to your meal plans.

You can also take advantage of diabetes-friendly seasonal fruits and vegetables in moderation, such as citrus fruits, nuts, root vegetables, and varieties of squash. Be careful of the easy and quick meals which only raise blood glucose[5].

  1. Boost your immunity

We know winter is when colds and flu take over and living with a chronic disease means taking even more precautions. Speak to your doctor about whether you should be taking medication in the event that you do get a cold or even about getting the flu vaccination. Bear in mind that when you do catch a cold or the flu, your energy levels decrease and your blood glucose levels could rise in response to the illness[6].

  1. Avoid the winter blues

Cold, unpleasant weather, lack of sunlight and stress in itself can cause blood sugar to rise. This is due to the body tapping into its stored glucose supplies and releasing sugar into the bloodstream – ‘preparing for battle’, i.e. making more sugar available to have the energy to fight whatever is causing you to feel stressed.  This is an example of how emotional and physical health are finely balanced in diabetes. So, it’s crucial to take care of both during winter[7]. It is therefore important to speak to friends and family if you are feeling overwhelmed, anxious or if you think you may be suffering from depression.

All it takes is a bit of extra effort to get through the shorter days and lack of sunlight. Making the necessary adjustments will ensure you are well equipped to make it through this winter.

Article supplied by Novo Nordisk South Africa.

Image credit – Coffee Geek


  1. 7 Tips to Keep Blood Sugar Under Control in Winter: Last accessed 08 June 2018
  2. 7 Tips to Keep Blood Sugar Under Control in Winter: Last accessed 08 June 2018
  3. Diabetes and Cold Weather: Last accessed 11 June 2018
  4. Diabetes and Cold Weather: Last accessed 11 June 2018
  5. 7 Tips to Keep Blood Sugar Under Control in Winter: Last accessed 11 June 2018
  6. [1]Diabetes and Cold Weather: Last accessed 11 June 2018
  7. Taking care of your emotional health: Last accessed 12 June 2018