Successfully managing diabetes as you age
Although diabetes can't be cured, you can reduce the risk of serious complications by managing the disease. That means keeping blood sugar (glucose) levels — as well as blood pressure and cholesterol levels — within a healthy range. Managing diabetes requires a careful balance of healthy eating, physical activity, weight management and sometimes multiple medications that must be taken at different times and in different ways. For older adults, managing diabetes may become an even greater challenge.
Factors that sometimes affect older adults trying to manage their diabetes include difficulties in preparing or eating food, decreased ability to exercise, a change in kidney or liver function or blood circulation, other diseases and taking multiple medications.
You can learn to control your diabetes, even as you age. Making healthy food choices is crucial to keeping your glucose level under control. You don't need to buy or prepare special foods; just be sure to eat foods that are low in fat, salt and sugar, and high in fiber, such as beans, fruits, vegetables and whole grains. These foods help you reach and stay at a healthy weight, keep your blood pressure, glucose and cholesterol in a desirable range, and prevent or delay heart and blood vessel disease.
Regular physical activity is also very important. You should talk to your doctor about what kinds of exercise would be best for you. If you haven't been active for a while, start slowly and gradually add more time and/or intensity. Shoot for a goal of 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity most days of the week. Keep in mind that it doesn't have to be done in one session — 10 minutes at a time is fine.
We're here to help
For people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes, Enloe's Diabetes Education Services offers individual appointments as well as a series of classes. Participants gain the knowledge and self-care skills necessary to manage their condition effectively. The program is accredited by the American Association of Diabetes Educators. It includes understanding the disease process, meal planning, home glucose monitoring and understanding blood-sugar goal ranges, acute and chronic complications of diabetes, the benefits of exercise, diabetes care during illnesses, goal setting and support for making changes that promote good health. Physician referral is required.
Enloe's Diabetes Education Services also facilitates the Insulin Pump Support Group for people using or interested in using insulin pump therapy. The group is led by Enloe's Certified Diabetes Educators and held on the second Wednesday of January, March, May, July, September and November from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Enloe Conference Center, 1528 Esplanade, in Chico.
For more information about appointments, the class series or the support group, call Enloe at 530.332.6840.
Older adults with diabetes
Beware of low blood sugar
Adults age 75 or older with diabetes visit the emergency department for low blood sugar almost three times as often as adults ages 45 to 64 with the disease.*
Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) can be a problem for anyone with diabetes, but it is especially a risk for those who use insulin. One problem is that some people's bodies stop alerting them to impending low blood sugar.
Early warning signs to watch out for include:
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Blurry vision
Also, once someone's blood sugar is low, they may not be able to treat themselves.
Other signs of low blood sugar, which may be more difficult to differentiate in older adults can include:
- Altered behavior, irritability
- Confusion, disorientation
- Poor concentration and coordination
To raise blood glucose quickly:
Any one of the following 15-gram carbohydrate choices can treat low blood glucose.
- 3 or 4 glucose tablets
- A half cup of fruit juice
- 4 ounces of regular soda
- 4 or 6 pieces of hard candy
- 1 tube of glucose gel
Study: Yogurt lowers diabetes risk
How does a 28 percent lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes sound? That's what researchers at the University of Cambridge found in people who consumed at least 4.5 servings per week of low-fat yogurt (about half a cup or an individual-sized container) compared with those who didn't eat any yogurt.
The study, which included 3,502 random participants and 753 participants who developed diabetes, compared all food and drink consumed during a week among people who developed type 2 diabetes during the 11-year follow-up with the intake of those who didn't develop the disease. High consumption of low-fat fermented dairy products, including yogurt and cheeses such as fromage frais and cottage cheese, was associated with a 24 percent reduction in diabetes risk. While the research doesn't prove cause and effect, there are a host of proven nutritional benefits from yogurt, which contains vitamin D, calcium, magnesium and probiotics.
Mediterranean diet may help reduce diabetes risk
Just how powerful is an olive oil-rich Mediterranean diet when it comes to impacting health? Following the food plan — which, in addition to olive oil, showcases heart-healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains and fish — might be enough to lower chances of developing diabetes, even without calorie control and exercise, according to new research.
The study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, looked at more than 3,500 adults at risk for heart disease (ages 55 to 80) in Spain for about four years, who were following either a Mediterranean diet with extra-virgin olive oil, a Mediterranean diet that included nuts or a low-fat diet. After adjusting for diabetes risk factors, those in the olive oil group reduced their risk of developing the disease by 40 percent compared with the low-fat diet group. Those whose diet included nuts reduced their risk by a statistically insignificant 18 percent.
So what's the secret of olive oil? The answer could lie, in part, in its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Despite these findings, which don't prove cause and effect, you still need to monitor your diet and exercising regularly. Doing so may help reduce your risk even further.