Diabetes Summer Health Guide: Seven Tips to Avoid Heat-Related Illnesses


This summer, UnitedHealth Group’s Diabetes Prevention and Control Alliance (DPCA) is reminding the nearly 26 million Americans living with diabetes that they are at higher risk for serious, heat-related illness, and offers tips for enjoying a safe, healthy and fun-filled season.

Dr. Vojta recommends seven simple safety precautions to help Americans living with diabetes stay safe this summer:“Summer is a great time to head outdoors to the beach, the park or even the backyard, but people with diabetes should take extra measures to avoid serious, heat-related illnesses,” said Deneen Vojta, MD, senior vice president, chief clinical officer of UnitedHealth Group’s Diabetes Prevention and Control Alliance. “Because diabetes can impair a person’s ability to sweat, hot, humid weather can dangerously reduce the body’s capacity to regulate blood-sugar levels. That is why it is important for people with diabetes to take proper precautions during the summer months to avoid potentially life-threatening conditions like heat exhaustion and heat stroke.”

  1. Play it safe - check your blood sugar levels often. If you, like most people, become more active in the summer months, changes in activity and heat levels can affect your insulin needs. Monitor your levels frequently to stay informed and healthy.
  2. Protect yourself from sunburn. Sunburn is never healthy, but it can be especially dangerous for people with diabetes because it can tax the body and cause blood glucose levels to rise. Wear plenty of sun block and avoid sun exposure during the hours when UV rays are strongest (usually between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.).
  3. Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration, which will place further stress on your body and affect glucose levels.
  4. Stay cool. If possible, take breaks from the heat in air-conditioned areas or designated cooling centers. Make sure to exercise in an air-conditioned place.
  5. Skip the caffeine and alcohol in high temperatures. Alcohol and caffeine can increase the risk of dehydration for people with diabetes. Avoid these substances altogether when the temperatures are especially high.
  6. Keep medication and supplies as cool as possible, and away from direct sunlight. Extreme temperatures can affect insulin and other supplies, and can cause them to break down or become less potent.
  7. Be alert for signs of heat exhaustion. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists these signals as common signs of heat exhaustion: heavy sweating; paleness; muscle cramps; tiredness; weakness; dizziness; headache; nausea or vomiting; and/or fainting. If you or someone you know who has diabetes experiences any of these symptoms, seek medical attention right away.

Dr. Vojta reminds people with diabetes or prediabetes, “Make sure to discuss with your doctor if these tips and information are right for you.”

The DPCA is an innovative partnership between UnitedHealth Group, YMCA of the USA and select retail pharmacies aimed at fighting the growing epidemics of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes, which are among the nation’s most serious and expensive medical issues. The alliance is based on research funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health demonstrating that lifestyle intervention and exercise can help reduce the chances of developing diabetes, and marks the first time in the country that a health plan is paying for evidence-based diabetes prevention in addition to engaging pharmacists to deliver critical control programs for the disease.

The DPCA is currently available in 26 states and the District of Columbia, and will continue to become available in additional cities across the country through 2012. To learn more about diabetes and resources offered by UnitedHealth Group, visit: unitedhealthgroup.com/diabetes.