In the U.S., there are nearly 26 million people living with diabetes, and more seniors have diabetes than any other age group. Currently, one in four Americans (10.9 million, or 26.9 percent) over the age of 60 is living with diabetes. With age comes an increased risk for specific complications that require diligence and care to properly mitigate them.
This presents a great opportunity to further educate seniors and, in some cases, provide information to their caregivers. The majority of seniors with diabetes have type 2 diabetes. It occurs because the body is not making enough insulin or is not able to properly use the insulin it does make. Insulin helps our bodies use glucose for energy.
When you were diagnosed with diabetes, your blood glucose level was too high. This sugar is not so sweet–diabetes is a serious disease that can cause complications such as blindness, kidney disease and heart disease, plus nerve damage that can lead to amputations.
The good news is that there are things you can do to prevent these diabetes-related problems, no matter your age. Taking action now will help with your later years, so you can live a healthy life and see your grandchildren grow into beautiful and healthy men and women. And, it’s the perfect time to think about this because National Grandparents Day is on Sunday.
Ways you can take control of your health include:
Keep your blood glucose level under control. Talk to your doctor about the target range for your blood glucose. Then check your levels daily (or as often as recommended by your doctor) to know if your treatment plan (nutrition plan, exercise and/or medication(s)) is working.
Make changes in your diet to lower your blood glucose and lower your risk for heart disease.
-Learn to eat well-balanced meals that include healthful food choices (vegetables, fruits, whole grains, etc.) and watch your portion sizes. Even foods that are good for you can add pounds to your waistline, if you consume too much of them. Losing those extra pounds will help you manage not only your diabetes, but also other health problems you may have.
-Keep your blood pressure under control. The same lifestyle changes that control blood glucose levels (dietary modifications and exercise) may also help you keep your blood pressure at safe levels. The American Diabetes Association recommends that people with diabetes keep their blood pressure below 140/80, but check with your health care professional about what target is best for you.
-Keep your cholesterol levels in normal range. The liver makes cholesterol and it is also found in the foods we eat such as eggs, meats and dairy products. High cholesterol levels can clog your arteries and put you at risk of developing heart disease and stroke. If you have high cholesterol, you can help lower it by losing weight, exercising and eating a healthful diet.
–Stop smoking. Smoking is bad for everyone. It increases your risk for heart disease and is even worse for people with diabetes because of the blood vessel damage it causes.
Increase your physical activity. Exercise is a very important tool to help lower your blood glucose. Prior to starting any exercise program, you will need to consult with your doctor. Make exercise routine with activities you enjoy. In addition to helping manage your blood glucose, exercise helps lower blood pressure and improves balance, flexibility and muscle strength. Exercise may even help to reduce anxiety and depression. Go out and play!
Learn more about diabetes. Managing your diabetes will require you to work together with your doctor. The Association’s website has developed information just for you. Also, check with your local Association office to find out about events in your area.
Vanessa Jones Briscoe, PhD, NP, CDE, is Associate Professor and Department Chair of Gerontology in the College of Health Sciences at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Fla. She is also Chair of the Older Adult Subcommittee, American Diabetes Association.