Don't let the cold get you down. Dr Bob Smith offers some timely advice on how to keep healthy this winter.
Watch your blood sugars
Winter is here and people with all types of diabetes tend to see their blood sugar levels rise when the temperature drops. Regular testing will help you catch any high or low blood sugar levels and help keep them under control. Cold hands can make testing trickier, so warm them up before doing your test.
Do a little daily activity
If you tend to feel the cold during the winter, exercising regularly could help. Being physically active can help regulate your glucose levels by increasing insulin sensitivity (in all types of diabetes), keeping you warm and improving your mood.
Exercise warms you up by increasing your metabolism. Physical activity is also good for the mind and gives you more energy, leaving you in a better position to manage all your activities.
Try to avoid getting ill
It is harder to control your diabetes if you are ill, so it makes sense to try to ward off illnesses as much as possible during the flu season. As well as making you feel rotten and less energetic, blood sugar levels often rise significantly higher when you have a cold, flu or a virus. Keep yourself warm, eat well and watch your blood sugar levels. Consider seeing your doctor for a flu jab, it is free of charge for people with diabetes.
Watch your diet
Many of us eat more in the colder months and we tend to reach for high calorie comfort foods, ready meals and fat-filled takeaways when it gets cold. This is the body’s natural response to the cold but try to keep an eye on what you are eating and make sure you don’t eat too much.
Stick to a wholefood diet with lots of fresh vegetables and fruit – warming soups and winter stews provide comfort as well as lots of vitamins and minerals.
Boost your vitamin D levels
Around five percent of adults in New Zealand are deficient in vitamin D and a further 27 percent are below the recommended level. Vitamin D is essential for bone strength. The risk of deficiency rises if you live south of Nelson-Marlborough and get little time outdoors between May and August.
If you have liver or kidney disease, or are on certain medications, you may be at risk of vitamin D deficiency. Talk to your doctor if you are worried about it.Walking outside in the sunshine is a great way to boost vitamin D in the winter. Eating foods rich in vitamin D such as oily fish (salmon, tuna, sardines, eel and warehou), milk and milk products, eggs and liver is another natural way to increase your vitamin D.
Banish the winter blues
Winter can be a tough time of year and the cold weather, lack of sunlight and illness often combine to make people feel a bit gloomy or even depressed. It will help if you follow the tips above, and exercise regularly and eat healthily.
Try to plan time out with family or friends during the winter months and enjoy winter activities together, even if it’s just playing cards in front of the fire. If you find you are not coping, talk to someone you trust about it. It’s important to reach out to others and seek help.
*A version of this story appeared in Diabetes New Zealand’s magazine in Winter 2012. Join today to receive your copy.
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