Summer’s here. Your diabetes doesn’t take vacations, but that doesn’t mean you can’t. Here are seven tips — and associated tools — to help you get the most out of your time off, beat the heat and keep your diabetes in check all at the same time.
1. Hydration is key
It’s nice outside, but it’s hot. You can count on your body’s sweating more to stay cool, but you also need to drink plenty of water. General recommended guidelines for water intake per day is 91 ounces for women and 125 for men, from water or foods.
With diabetes, you need more water to fend off dehydration. If you get dehydrated, your blood sugars will go up, so keep plenty of liquids on hand. Stick to plain water if you can and, if you’d like, add a little fresh slice of naturally sweet lemon, lime, strawberry or watermelon. If you’re into techie gadgets, consider splurging on one of the fun-featured, dishwater-safe, smart water bottles out there that can track your water intake and remind you to hydrate. As for caffeine, alcohol and sugary sodas — lessen or steer clear, as they’re actually dehydrating.
2. Stick to a healthy, hydrating diet
With diabetes, you need more water to fend off dehydration. If you get dehydrated, your blood sugars will go up, so keep plenty of liquids on hand. Did you know there are also high hydrating foods? And it’s not just juicy fruits. Especially rich in vitamins as well as water, some non-starchy vegetables can help you avoid summer’s dehydration blues and blood sugar spikes.
For example, celery is 95 percent water and contains lots of fiber, too, which helps slow down how fast everything digests and, thus, how fast sugar enters your blood stream. Cucumbers and bell peppers come in about the same and turn out to be good sources of vitamins like vitamin C. Have fun packing your next summertime picnic lunch with your favorite water-logged foods.
3. Stay active, but be smart
Walking, bicycling, yard work. Even if it’s something you do year-round, move it to before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m. when the sun’s rays are not at their strongest. Sunglasses, a broad-brimmed hat and sunscreen of at least 30 SPF are always good options to protect your skin from overexposure or sunburn. Having diabetes can increase your risk of fungal infections, so shoes, especially around pools, will help keep your toes dry and protected during the summer. Try this activity planning tool to help you track your summer physical exertions.
4. Be prepared for diabetes emergencies
Remember: heat’s the enemy of medicines, glucose test kits and insulin devices. So, if you’re headed to an outside destination, pack equipment and supplies in a cooler or specially-designed cooling case. Everyone with diabetes should have a diabetes emergency plan and travel kit fully stocked and ready to go.
5. Monitor, monitor, monitor
The safest way to monitor your blood sugars is to do it more often. This is particularly important if your activities, foods and routines see a summer change. Sitting still for hours cooped up in a car or on an airplane or tour bus. Snacking or eating out in restaurants more frequently. To make things easier, you might consider an all-in-one, on-the-go, disposable meter with built-in strips as a new summer travel companion. You can also ask your doctor about continuous glucose monitoring systems.
6. Be a problem solver
If you’re outside and feeling dizzy, headachy or lightheaded, do you have a retreat plan where you can get cool and check your blood sugar? Being prepared and knowing your glucose level when away from home is what’s paramount here, no matter whether it’s your morning outing with the dog or a family hike in Big Bend National Park. Know the signs so you can recognize your lows and highs at a moment’s notice.
7. Keep stress from impacting your blood sugar
Stuck in a long summer line? Taking in a weekend of scary rides with your granddaughter at an amusement park? Negative or positive, stress is still stress, and studies show stress can cause your blood sugars to rise. Fortunately, mindfulness exercise tools (technically referred to as mindfulness-based cognitive therapy or MBCT) can help whenever you’re feeling a little overwhelmed. For example, try doing a body scan by shutting your eyes and mindfully thinking about relaxing each part of your body from top to bottom. Or, start a gratitude journal.
This summer, relax, have fun — and consider adding a few new self-care tools to your current diabetes toolbox. Talk to your doctor about more ways to stay healthy and beat the heat.