Diabetes is a growing health problem, particularly among seniors. According to the National Diabetes Statistics Report, about 30% of adults 65 and older have diabetes. Another 49% of older adults have prediabetes, which is defined as a higher-than-normal blood glucose (sugar)--but not quite high enough to meet the threshold for a diabetes diagnosis.
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Putting these numbers together, more than 75% of seniors either have diabetes or are at risk of developing the condition.
Elevated blood glucose can affect virtually every aspect of your well-being, especially for seniors. Senior diabetics are at higher risk for heart attack, stroke, vascular disease, kidney disease, retina and eye conditions, cognitive impairment, urinary incontinence, depression, functional disabilities, and more. It's an extensive list of potential complications, which is why managing diabetes is so crucial.
Reduce your risk
The good news is that we know a lot about how to treat diabetes, and it starts with a simple ABC acronym.
A is for A1C, a test that measures your average blood sugar over the past few months; B is for blood pressure; and C stands for cholesterol. Managing your ABCs through lifestyle choices has been shown to dramatically reduce your risk for the complications above.
In fact, many diabetics and prediabetics have been able to reduce their blood sugars, blood pressure, and cholesterol to normal levels by making healthy choices. A healthy lifestyle primarily consists of choosing nutritious foods, increasing physical activity, stopping smoking, limiting alcohol intake, and reducing stress.
Make a plan
Eating well and managing your weight (to an appropriate level) starts with creating a plan based on your preferences and specific health care needs. Nutrition is a big piece of the puzzle, but finding a way to consistently eat a low-fat, low-salt diet with a greater emphasis on vegetables, fruit, and fiber can be challenging. Speak with your doctor about medical nutrition therapy or visit the American Diabetes Association website for helpful information.
Regular exercise will further lower your risk for diabetes. Design an exercise plan that considers your needs and preferences within the context of your functional abilities. Aerobic activity and strength training are good options. See your doctor to discuss what is best for you.
While lifestyle adjustments are the cornerstone of diabetes management, many older adults will still need additional help through medication or insulin. Also, it is important for seniors with diabetes to schedule routine care for their eyes, feet, and teeth--and to stay up-to-date on lab work and vaccinations.
While many factors contribute to managing diabetes, a healthy lifestyle does not have to feel like a series of chores. Rather, it should be an approach that not only lowers your ABCs, but actually makes you feel better and improves your quality of life!
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