Summer Strategies for People with Diabetes
For most people summer time is a season filled with fun times, late nights, barbeques, vacations and the beach. For people with diabetes, summer time is a season filled with these same things as well as the challenges these things bring. Here are a few helpful hints to help you deal with them.
We all need a little fun in our lives and staying up late comes with the territory. However, increased activities and lack of sleep can cause changes in our blood sugar levels. If these changes are few and far between then the fun must out way the variances. Sometimes a 200 mg/dl blood sugar is just that and you must let it go and move on.
If these fun times and changes are becoming frequent and you are seeing 200 mg/dl blood sugars daily, or 60 mg/ dl daily, then you may need to address these changes with your doctor and diabetes educator so that medication adjustments such as oral medication for diabetes and or insulin can be adjusted to accommodate these changes.
Vacations and Increased Activities
Some of the causes for changes in blood sugar levels are increased activity like walking, especially on vacations. For people whose work is mostly sedentary, going on vacation with all the increased activities that it brings may lower blood sugar drastically. All of a sudden you are experiencing low blood sugar reactions daily. Be prepared discuss your vacation plans with your doctor and or educator. They can help you plan for your vacations so that you get to fully enjoy them and not end up in hospital away from home.
Summer Time Eating
Another cause for these changes is of course summer time eating. I don't know about you, but I am going to one BBQ after another. Don't get me wrong, I love a BBQ but when food plays an enormous role in our blood sugar control, a BBQ can be more of a challenge than you had expected.
For example, I recently went to a BBQ that served 99% carbohydrate containing foods. I couldn't believe it. Not a green salad in site. Most of the time, you can plan for the traditional hamburger or hotdog, but you hope and look for the green salad to balance things off and to fill you up. Well the night started with teriyaki chicken wings, then cheese and crackers, then on to the dinner, hamburgers hotdogs, potato salad, macaroni salad, and a pasta salad. Then to top it off, all cake deserts. OK, I know what your saying, You can have all things but in small quantities, and your right, but you are forgetting an important thing. For most people that have diabetes they are not carbohydrate counting and they have type 2 diabetes, (remember, the type of diabetes that is characterized by insulin resistance and weight). For those people, having high fat foods and having more carbohydrates than usually will lead to weight gain and then higher blood sugars. Not Good, especially if you have a lot of these BBQs to go to.
How do you get around this challenge? Plan and stay in control.
First ask what you can bring. You may want to offer what you want to bring. For instance, I could have prevented my dilemma by asking if I could bring a tossed green salad. Make it fancy looking, put in all your favorites, cranberries, almonds, cucumbers, tomatoes, cheese and anything else you would like to make that salad taste good and satisfying. Or offer to bring a side dish or main course, or maybe even a dessert. The point is, don't expect any one else to care for you, you must take care of you. Your loved ones and friends have the best of intentions but they don't know diabetes, nor should they have to.
Fun in the Sun
Last but not least is the change in blood sugar caused by the sun. Heat can cause vasodilatation which can cause lower blood sugars in the summer time or day on the beach. Monitor your blood sugars more frequently, don't keep your meter in the sun, don't keep your insulin or insulin pump in direct sun.
I would prefer that you keep you insulin in an insulated bag on the beach and you can throw your meter in there as well. For those of you on insulin pump therapy, don't keep you pump in direct sun, remember you have insulin in it and the heat of the sun can damage it. Talk to your educator for some more tips about the sun and your pump, especially if you are planning a vacation that involves days and hours on the beach. It can be a wonderful time if you plan for it.
As you can see, everything the summer has to offer can be planned for and enjoyed by all. But it involves work on your part. You must take control and plan. Talk you your doctor and educator in advance. Don't wait until you have a problem. To quote a famous Boy Scout Motto , Be Prepared . If I can help, don't hesitate to call me at the Diabetes Education Center at (516)897-4354.
Rachel Ferdinand, RD, CDE
Director, Diabetes Education Center
To learn more about the Diabetes Education Center of Long Beach Medical Center, or to schedule an appointment, please call (516) 897-4344.
The Diabetes Education Center at Long Beach Medical Center
2nd Floor - Main Building
455 E. Bay Drive
Long Beach, NY 11561