Diabetes is a debilitating disease, and being diabetic is in no way a fun experience. When you combine being diabetic and being more advanced in age, the odds are unevenly stacked against the sufferer. However, being over fifty and suffering from diabetes is not a death sentence. Adopting a lifestyle choice that includes a proper and a healthy diet, exercise and mindfulness means that you can live a long, good and healthy life. In fact, your best years are not behind you yet. They are stretched out ahead of you. Here is how:
A quick definition of diabetes
Simply defined, diabetes is when the blood glucose level (or blood sugar) in a person’s body is too high. When we eat, our bodies convert the food that we eat into glucose and this glucose is stored into our cells where it is used to generate the energy our body needs. To however get glucose stored in the cells, we need insulin.
Diabetes happens when the human body does not make either enough insulin or does not use the insulin it makes in the proper way, thereby causing too much glucose in the blood
In type 1 diabetes, the body prodcuses very little insulin or does not make at all. This kind of diabetes is mostly common in young adults and children.
As for type 2 diabetes, which is the most common kind of diabetes especially for older adults, the body does make insulin but the problem lies in the fact that it doesn’t use this insulin in the right way. The risk for becoming diabetic are higher for overweight or physically inactive persons and for people who have a family history of the disease.
How do you know if you have diabetes?
There are several symptoms of diabetes and it is possible to have type 2 diabetes and not know it until a diagnostic test is done. Some of these symptoms include:
Weight loss (without actually attempting to lose weight)
Cuts and bruises that don’t heal as quickly as before
Type 2 diabetes can be put in check and in most cases, you can control your blood sugar levels with diet and exercise. In some cases, you may need insulin injections or diabetes medicine. Whatever you need to control the level of sugar in your blood, remember that one of the best choices you can make for yourself is to adopt a lifestyle that puts emphasis on a proper healthy diet and physical activity. It may be all that you need to effectively manage the diabetes.
And even if you do require insulin or other interventions, the lifestyle choice of exercise and good diet will ensure that the intervention have a better chance of working.
Most areas of care in diabetes are applicable to all age groups but there are certain specific changes which might affect your diabetes due to your advanced age. If you are over 50 and living with diabetes, here are simple ways in which you can take charge:
Track your glucose levels: When you are diabetic, you should avoid having both very high or very low glucose levels, as both are extremes and risky to your health. You thus need to understand how to track your glucose level by yourself in the comfort of your own home, so that you can take precautionary measures if you are slipping towards any extreme.
Choose to eat healthily: You should be able to continue to enjoy a wide variety of foods and it is important never to forget personal food preferences. This said, it is however important to note that most diabetic persons will have food restrictions that would almost always lower or cut out fat, salt and sugar from the diet. It is important to follow your primary physician’s recommendation when it comes to your diet. Eat only what has been approved for you to eat. Don’t cheat on your diet. Remember that you are not dieting for weight loss or aesthetic purposes, but for the purpose of your health. It is advised that you also get one on one advice from a licensed dietitian and discuss meal plans that cover areas such as your need to add extra calories rather than burn calories, the need for meal replacements or supplements, weight loss (for those who are overweight), and a low salt diet.
Get physically active: It is imperative to keep active in later life. This does many wondrous things for the body, such as helping it to improve insulin sensitivity, strengthen muscles, and improve mobility and balance. If you are suffering from diabetes, it has been shown that you can benefit from light resistance and balance training.
Don’t forget your medication: The tendency for most people is to not take their diabetes medicine when they feel good. Never do that. Always take your medication, whether you feel like taking it or not.
Be proactive: Be proactive in the treatment of your disease by finding out your average blood sugar level through an A1C blood test. Also get a blood test at least once a year to find out the level of cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Have eye exams every year, as a quick discovery and quick treatment of eye problems will keep them healthy. Get a kidney exam yearly too, as diabetes can have a negative effect on the kidneys. Get your flu shots every year. If you are over 65, get a pneumonia vaccine yearly. Take extra care of your teeth and gums by brushing and flossing daily, and getting your teeth checked by a dentist at least every six months. Then remember to protect your skin by keeping it clean and using skin softeners for dryness. As soon as you have a minor cut or bruise, be proactive in their treatment in order to avoid infections.
If you smoke, quit: We all know that smoking raises the risk for many other health problems including a stroke and a heart attack. It will benefit you greatly to quit smoking.
Take care of your feet: Make the time to check your feet every single day for red or other unusually colored patches. Take care of sores, blisters, infections, breaks in the skin, or build-up of calluses immediately.
Live ready: Finally, always be prepared for emergencies. Make sure that there are at least three days’ worth of medication or equipment for testing and treating your diabetes on hand at any given time. It may very well save your life.