(ARA) - For the nearly 26 million Americans living with diabetes, high temperatures and increased sun exposure can pose particularly dangerous health risks. During warm weather, experts caution that people with diabetes must take extra care to avoid serious, heat-related conditions.
"Heading to the beach, the pool or the park is a great way to cool down and stay in shape when the temperature rises, but people with diabetes may not realize the heat can place them at greater risk for serious, heat-related illness," says Dr. Deneen Vojta, senior vice president and chief clinical officer of UnitedHealth Group's Diabetes Prevention and Control Alliance (DPCA). "Diabetes actually impairs a person's ability to sweat, which means that hot, humid weather can dangerously reduce the body's regulation of blood sugar levels. That's why it is critical that people with this disease take proper precautions to avoid conditions like heat exhaustion and heat stroke."
Vojta offers seven simple tips that may help people with this disease to stay active, healthy and safe when temperatures are high:
1. Check your blood sugar levels often. Changes in activity and heat levels can affect your body's insulin needs.
2. Wear sunblock. Sunburn can tax your body and trigger increased blood glucose levels.
3. Stay cool. Take regular breaks from the heat in air-conditioned areas or designated cooling centers, if possible. Make sure to exercise in an air-conditioned place or exercise during early morning and evening hours when temperatures are cooler.
4. Keep medication and supplies cool and away from direct sunlight. Extreme temperatures and sunlight can have a damaging effect on diabetes medication such as insulin, causing the drug to break down or become less effective.
5. Stay hydrated. Dehydration stresses the body and affects glucose levels.
6. Avoid caffeine and alcohol in high temperatures. Both alcohol and caffeine have diuretic effects that can increase risks of dehydration.
7. Be alert for common signs of heat exhaustion. Signs of serious health-related illnesses can include: heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea, vomiting and fainting.
Vojta advises that people with diabetes should be on the lookout for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke and seek medical attention right away if they experience symptoms.
Additional resources on managing and preventing diabetes can be found by visiting the websites of the American Diabetes Association (www.diabetes.org) and the National Diabetes Education Program (ndep.nih.gov/resources). UnitedHealth Group also offers a range of helpful tips and information on the disease at www.unitedhealthgroup.com/diabetes.