Baby It's Cold Outside! Is Your Blood Sugar Higher?

Ask yourself these questions to get to the bottom

Joy PapeBy Joy Pape, RN, BSN, CDE, WOCN, CFCN

This has been the coldest winter of the century for some cities. Those of you who live in these cities may have noticed your blood sugars are higher. You are not alone. Research has shown that there is a seasonal rise in A1C levels in colder temperatures. Is it the temperature or is it our lifestyle? It seems to be a bit of each.

Just recently some of my patients have been telling me their blood sugars are higher than usual. There's not much I can do about the cold weather, but I can help them better manage their blood sugar. So, I ask about their lifestyle. For example, just the other day, a patient said, "I don't get it. I was doing so well. Now my blood sugars are up." I then asked her, and I ask you, to think about these factors that could be raising your blood sugar during this cold winter:

1. What happened over the holidays? It's not unusual for people to loosen up their diabetes care during the holidays. Many times there have been celebrations, a lot of food you are not used to eating, perhaps higher in carbs, and/or you just weren't sure about the carbs, so you may not have counted or adjusted correctly. Some people don't/won't check their blood sugar or take injections when they are not at home. Could it be you were out more and didn't check and didn't take your insulin or meds? It's hard to remember this now that we're a month out of the big holiday season.

2. What happened to how often you check your sugar? Did you loosen up on checking during the holidays, and has that carried over to now? If you wear a CGM, did you stop wearing it?

3. What happened to exercise? For many, exercise is the first thing to go with bad weather. This is why I ask people to think of activities they can and will do all year long. In other words, plan for bad weather! Some people tell me they have it covered because they go to the gym. Not always so! What I see is when the weather gets bad, many don't even get out to go to the gym.

4. What happened to your eating? As mentioned above, the big holidays affect many, but for some the holidays — a reason to celebrate with food — go on a long time. My comedienne partner in Laugh It Off, a health education/entertainment team, Phyllis Shulman tells people not to dig your grave with your fork from October (Halloween) through the February (Super Bowl and Valentine's Day).

So, what's a person to do? Live and learn. Don't blame yourself. Realize it happens and it just happened to you. Get back on track now with your healthy diabetes habits, and prepare to be more aware and on track next winter.

Remember the importance of getting and keeping your blood sugars and A1C in your target range to keep you healthy in any weather.


Read Joy's bio here. 

Read more of Joy Pape's columns.

NOTE: The information is not intended to be a replacement or substitute for consultation with a qualified medical professional or for professional medical advice related to diabetes or another medical condition. Please contact your physician or medical professional with any questions and concerns about your medical condition.

Last Modified Date: February 07, 2014

All content on is created and reviewed in compliance with our editorial policy.
  1. The Japanese Journal of Clinical Pathology, 60(7). Evaluation of seasonal changes in hemoglobin A1c in diabetic patients. (Accessed 01/14.)
  2. Cardiovascular Diabetology, 6(1). Walking behaviour and glycemic control in type 2 diabetes: seasonal and gender differences—study design and methods. (Accessed 01/14.)
  3. American Journal Of Epidemiology. 161(6). Seasonal patterns of monthly hemoglobin A1c values. (Accessed 01/14.)

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