Diabetes is common. According to the American Diabetes Association, 34.2 million people (10.5% of the US population) had diabetes in 2018. This makes diabetes one of the leading causes of morbidity in the country. People with diabetes are at risk of serious complications, including limb amputation and vision loss. This makes it all the more important that awareness for the disease be raised: diabetes prevention and tips for managing it are vital in seeing these high numbers come down.
What Is Diabetes?
The CDC defines Diabetes as a “chronic health condition that affects how your body turns food into energy.” Type 2 diabetes is the most common type in the United States, but it is reversible. Diabetes prevention often relates to type 2 diabetes over type 1, as only one of them is caused by diet and lifestyle. Type 2 diabetes typically occurs when your body’s sugar levels are too high too frequently. This causes symptoms like needing to urinate often and excessive thirst. When you have type 2 diabetes, your body consumes and breaks down carbohydrates (such as cakes, pasta, or potatoes) and turns these carbohydrates into glucose. When glucose is detected in the body, the pancreas responds to this by releasing insulin. Insulin is a vital chemical in the body. The problem is, when you have type 2 diabetes, the insulin can’t do its job properly and your blood sugar levels keep rising to unmanageable levels, causing a serious reaction—which can, in the most extreme cases, lead to death.
What Are the Symptoms of Diabetes?
The symptoms of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes include, but are not limited to:
- Frequent urination (especially at night)
- Excessive thirst
- Weight loss
- Genital itching or thrush
- Cuts and wounds taking longer to heal
- Blurred vision
- Increased hunger
Who Gets Diabetes?
People who have diabetes are up to 6 times more likely to have developed it if the disease runs in their family. However, there are other diabetes risk factors. These include:
- Age: The older you get, the more likely you are to get diabetes. This is why managing diabetes in seniors is so important.
- Ethnicity: Those of black African or Caribbean decent are more likely to develop diabetes.
- Diet: High carb diets are a primary cause of diabetes.
Why Does Age Increase Diabetes Risk?
As we age, our bodies change. A common change is a decline in lean body mass and an increase in visceral body fat. This can lead to insulin resistance. It’s also more likely that as we age, we lead a more sedentary lifestyle and don’t take care of ourselves in the way we once did, which can lead to the unhealthy habits that can cause diabetes.
Diabetes Prevention and Tips for Managing it with Seniors
Diabetes prevention and tips for managing it can be immensely helpful for seniors, as they are far more likely to suffer from the disease. There are a number of ways a senior person and their caregivers can help to manage diabetes. Some of these tasks are based on diet, others on activity.
1. Keep active.
An inactive lifestyle can increase body fat and also increase the likeliness of developing or worsening diabetes. Fortunately, a senior can take part in all sorts of activities, regardless of their mobility levels. Simple solutions can include a short walk or a low impact exercise DVD. At Carelink, we partner with members of the community to offer fitness opportunities tailored to the needs and bodies of seniors. For further tips, visit our blog post on maintaining mobility in old age.
2. Eat well.
Older people can become too tired or confused or simply no longer have the energy or motivation for experimental cooking. However, it is vital that they maintain a good diet. A balanced diet rich in healthy green foods and lean meats (such as fish) is especially beneficial—not just for the body, but for the brain, too. Meals On Wheels can be a fantastic service for older people who need a hand with cooking. The service prepares and delivers meals to a person’s doorstep, which can have a dramatic positive impact on diabetes prevention and managing diabetes for seniors. If you’re interested in learning more about geriatric nutrition on a budget, click here for some tips that can be implemented at home.
Older people who are lonely are more likely to have unhealthy lifestyles. As a result, it is important that they maintain an active social life, which can help them practice good exercise and improve their mental health. Having peer support is also great for motivation in keeping healthy. Senior centers are designed for seniors to come together and meet likeminded people, and they can be a great place for deep connections to be made. They also provide services helpful to seniors, including fitness activities and social clubs. If there’s nothing you like on the list at your local center, you can try something else. For example, there might be senior clubs at your nearest community center—perhaps a tennis group, a seniors yoga class, or something gentle, like aqua aerobics. Each of these will offer an opportunity to improve a senior’s wellbeing, both socially and physically.
4. Reach out.
If you are a senior citizen, or if you know of a senior who appears to be struggling, it’s important to reach out for help. Diabetes can worsen significantly when a person is on their own and struggling. Participating in the above groups can be difficult, but reaching out is the first step to making connections and living a healthier, happier life—especially when it comes to managing diabetes.
5. Get frequent medical checkups.
With diabetes, insulin levels must be monitored. Some people find having a home device very beneficial. That said, regular doctor visits can also greatly assist a senior citizen with diabetes by offering opportunities to regularly monitor other aspects of the disease. At CareLink, we can help with medication advice and transportation for anyone who needs to see a doctor, whether it be for managing diabetes or something else. By doing so, we hope to aid our senior citizens in getting all of the medical care that they need.
CareLink Can Help
At CareLink, we offer a range of services that can significantly improve the quality of life for older people. Send us a message via our website to let us know if you or your loved one needs support in preventing or managing diabetes. One of our trained care coordination teams will call you to discuss your options, and we will get you on your way to wellness!