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Your Healthy Family: How heat impacts people with diabetes

Posted at 7:54 AM, Jul 12, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-12 07:54:51-04

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 37 million people in the U.S. have diabetes. And the extreme heat can be especially hard for people with the disease.

Doctors say people with diabetes might feel the heat differently than someone who doesn't.

“Your body's sensation in how it metabolizes, how it interprets heat, how it responds to heat really differs in someone with diabetes," Mayo Clinic Family Medicine Doctor Jesse Bracamonte said.

He said it's critical for people with diabetes to check sugars frequently when it's hot. The soaring temperatures may cause episodes of low blood sugar.

"If people have well-controlled sugars and they're active during the day, they may find that their sugars drop. Heat actually makes your metabolism speed up and you lose a little bit more insulin, and therefore that sugar may drop," Dr. Bracamonte said.

He said the heat can also raise blood sugar levels. If you get dehydrated, he said to drink plenty of water, and limit alcohol, caffeine and other sugary drinks. He said those can lead to dehydration. Dr. Bracamonte also recommends not going out during the hottest part of the day. If you do go outside, he said to dress in light-colored, light-weight, loose clothing.

"Really helps your body breathe and really helps to dissipate some of that extra heat you'd normally retain," he said.

Since people with diabetes have to pay special attention to foot health to avoid nerve damage or sores, Dr. Bracamonte said to not walk outside bare-foot in this heat.

"The heat and the cement and the temperature from the ambient walkway can cause severe damage to your feet, and in some cases, put you in the hospital. So footwear, appropriate footwear, is key," he said.

Dr. Bracamonte also said to make sure insulin and any monitors or sensors aren’t kept in the heat.