Age is considered one of the most common risk factors for type 2 diabetes. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you are more likely to get type 2 diabetes if you are 45 years or older. For this reason, diabetes prevention should top your list of your priorities as a senior citizen.
As you age, your body either doesn’t produce sufficient insulin or is unable to properly utilize the insulin generated. Inadequate levels of insulin or the inability of the body to use the insulin produced in the body exposes you to the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Read on for more information on diabetes prevention and tips for managing the disease
What Is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a health condition that causes your blood sugar to rise to abnormal levels as a result of complications with your insulin levels.
Insulin is a blood sugar regulator produced by your body. This hormone is essential in the control of your body’s ability to absorb sugar, or glucose, and convert it to energy. If your body starts to make inadequate levels of insulin or is unable to use the insulin that is produced properly, your blood sugar levels will rise and diabetes can result.
There are two main types of diabetes — type 1 and type 2.
Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune or hereditary condition where the body naturally does not make enough insulin. The disease is common in children and young adults. People living with type 1 diabetes may have to live on insulin or diabetes medication throughout their lives.
Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes was previously referred to as adult-onset diabetes, as it was most common in adults. However, the condition is increasingly affecting children, especially those living with obesity. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body stops creating insulin, produces low levels of insulin, or is unable to utilize insulin effectively. In most cases, the condition is considered a lifestyle disease that impacts the elderly.
Other types of diabetes include pre-diabetes and gestational diabetes.
Pre-diabetes is a condition where patients have blood sugars levels that are higher than normal but are yet to develop diabetes. People with pre-diabetes should change their lifestyles to delay the onset of diabetes. If done so properly, preventing diabetes altogether is possible!
Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes that impacts women during pregnancy. In most cases, the condition reverses itself after childbirth.
Simple Steps for Diabetes Prevention
Type 2 diabetes can be prevented — and can even go away after its onset — with some simple lifestyle changes. If you are a senior citizen or are taking care of an elderly family member, you can connect with elderly care agencies to get more information on how to improve the lifestyle of your loved one.
Here are the basics of diabetes prevention and tips for managing the disease.
1. Manage Your Weight
Weight is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Being overweight inhibits your body’s ability to effectively use insulin to convert glucose into energy. Being obese increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by up to 40 times more when compared to people with a healthy weight.
Keeping your weight within a healthy range helps you prevent the disease. Your doctor or an Area Agency on Aging representative can guide you on what is a healthy weight.
2. Incorporate Physical Exercise
Being physically active has a myriad of health benefits for your body. Regular physical exercise helps your body to effectively utilize insulin, lose weight, lower your blood sugar levels, as well as help you stay fit.
Contrary to what most people believe, regular physical exercise does not mean strenuous physical activities that make you work up a sweat. Regular sessions of less vigorous physical activities are just as effective in controlling your blood sugar. A thirty-minute brisk walk each day is enough to reduce your risk of developing diabetes by 30%. However, resistance exercises are also beneficial to include in your workout plan.
3. Quit Smoking
Smoking increases the risk of developing many lifestyle health conditions, including diabetes. If you smoke cigarettes, you can consult an Area Agency on Aging representative to help overcome nicotine addiction. That being said, the choice to quit smoking is a personal endeavor dependent on your willpower and desire to get healthy.
4. Control Your Alcohol Intake
Excessive alcohol drinking also increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. On the other hand, studies have shown that moderate alcohol consumption can reduce your risk of developing the condition. Moderate alcohol intake also boosts the effectiveness of your body’s ability to use the insulin generated by your body.
5. Consider Following a Plant-based Diet
A diet high in plant foods, especially those rich in dietary fiber, helps you control your weight and reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Foods rich in dietary fiber include:
- Fruits such as grapefruit, oranges, blueberries, lemons, red grapes, and apples
- Legumes such as beans, chickpeas, and lentils
- Non-starchy vegetables such as leafy greens, cauliflower, and broccoli
- Whole grains such as whole-wheat bread and whole-grain rice
Plant fiber helps your body slow down the absorption of sugar, which consequently lowers your blood sugar levels.
6. Avoid High Calorie Foods
Diabetes prevention and tips for managing the condition mostly revolve around what you eat and how physically active you are. To further reduce the risk of developing the disease, consider cutting down your consumption of red meat and high-calorie carbohydrates such as white bread or other processed foods.
Additionally, try to avoid high sugar beverages such as soft drinks. These foods tend to cause blood sugar and insulin spikes since they are easily and quickly utilized by the body as a source of energy.
Instead of red meat, go for fish, white meat, and plant proteins. You can also replace soft drinks with water or freshly squeezed fruit juice.
7. Find a Nutrition Program for Seniors Near You
Sometimes, the elderly have to choose between healthy eating and paying their bills, which makes it difficult to maintain a healthy diet. Fortunately, programs like Meals on Wheels help provide healthy foods to the elderly in Arkansas – typically at no cost – so they can lead healthier lives.
We Can Help
If you’re looking for diabetes prevention or management for your aging loved one, the Arkansas Association of Area Agencies on Aging can help. At the Arkansas Association of Area Agencies on Aging, we provide information and services to the elderly to help them prevent lifestyle health conditions such as diabetes. Contact us today for more information.