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... and Why Diabetics May Be at Risk

July 29, 2010
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A new survey shows that diabetic individuals who live in a hot climate have important gaps in their "heat awareness," or knowledge about proper diabetes self-care in hot weather, even though diabetes raises their risk of heat illness.

Researchers from the Mayo Clinic in Arizona, in collaboration with the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration and the National Weather Service, surveyed patients at a Phoenix diabetes clinic and analyzed 152 surveys. Responses showed that people living with diabetes in hot climates need increased awareness of how heat affects their disease, said lead researcher Adrienne Nassar, third-year medical resident at Mayo Clinic.

"People with diabetes have an impaired ability to sweat, which predisposes them to heat-related illness, as do uncontrolled, high blood sugars," said Nassar.

Past research shows that during hot weather people with diabetes have an increased number of emergency-room visits, hospitalizations and deaths due to heat illness.

"Heat illness can take place at 80 to 90 degrees when you factor in the heat index," Nassar said of the measure which is a combination of air temperature and humidity. High humidity makes heat more dangerous because it slows the evaporation of perspiration, the way the body cools itself.

Heat also can harm the effectiveness of diabetes medications and supplies.

Said Nassar: "Oral medications, as well as insulin, have a therapeutic temperature range above which they lose efficacy."

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