For anyone at risk of Type 2 diabetes, prevention can be paramount. According to the CDC, an estimated 29 million Americans are diabetic, and an additional 86 million suffer from pre-diabetes. Left untreated, many of those pre-diabetics will go on to develop the full form of the disease and be placed at risk for its serious complications. These complications include kidney damage, blindness, hearing impairment, amputation, stroke, and heart disease. Diabetes prevention for seniors is particularly important because as many as half of all seniors over the age of 65 suffer from pre-diabetes.
But there is some good news. With the right lifestyle modifications, it’s possible to reduce your risk of diabetes by as much as 60%. These simple lifestyle changes have proven to be roughly twice as effective as anti-diabetes drugs. Below we’ll look at several of these simple lifestyle modifications that have been proven to be some of the most effective techniques for elderly diabetes prevention in our diabetes prevention tips.
Diet and Exercise
The leading risk factor for diabetes is obesity. Being even marginally overweight can significantly increase your risk of contracting diabetes. One study has estimated that for every 2.2 pounds of lost weight, it’s possible to reduce your risk of Type 2 diabetes about 16%. When a senior is trying to lose weight, it’s important to begin by setting realistic goals within a comfortable time frame, and then take small steps towards achieving those objectives. Please discuss with your doctor, or a nutritional expert, an appropriate diet for you.
In most cases, the best way for a senior to lose weight is by adopting a low-calorie diet. Such a diet should prominently include a variety of fruits and fiber-rich vegetables, which research has shown can reduce the risk of diabetes. This diet should rely on leaner meats, lower fat dairy products, and whole-grain cereals and breads.
Of course, what you eat is just as important as what you don’t eat. That’s why it’s important to avoid eating foods that are abundant sources of trans fats, saturated fat, and sugar. This includes the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, like soft drinks. Because there’s a clear link between obesity, diabetes, and sugar-sweetened drinks, water is a much healthier alternative.
More Than Just Diet
Finally, it’s important for seniors to remain physically active to prevent diabetes. Activity can reduce your risk for Type 2 diabetes because it helps make your cells receptive to insulin. The recommended amount of exercise for the prevention of diabetes is approximately 30 minutes a day, five days a week. This exercise regimen can include a very wide range of activities including flexibility exercises, strength training with light weights, and aerobic exercises including brisk walking. Please consult your family physician before engaging in any new exercise program.
Stress releases a variety of hormones into the body that can increase your blood sugar, so it’s important to reduce stress in order to prevent diabetes. One of the best ways you can be proactive about reducing stress is mindfulness meditation, which studies have shown can be a highly effective way to cope with chronic stress. Other effective alternatives include socializing with friends, napping, keeping a journal, and of course physical activity.
Get Better Sleep
Another important part of diabetes care for older adults is getting the right amount of sleep. The average adult needs seven to eight hours of sleep each night, and poor quality sleep and chronic sleep deprivation can be major contributing factors to the development of both obesity and diabetes. Consider setting a regular bedtime for your loved one, or encouraging naps to make up for lost sleep. You can also help naturally regulate the body’s sleep cycle by increasing exposure to daylight. This can be done by keeping curtains and blindfolds open, avoiding the use of sunglasses, working outside, or considering the use of a light therapy box.
And Don’t Forget…
With the right diabetes care for seniors, it’s possible to drastically reduce the risk to your loved ones. Along with responsible prevention techniques, you should always be aware of the warning signs of Type 2 diabetes because they can be far more subtle than those of type 1.As many as one in four people with diabetes are unaware that they have the disease. Warning signs include a receding gum line, red or swollen gums, pus between the gums and teeth, loose teeth, changes in bite, or changes in the fit of dentures. Should any of these symptoms occur, talk to your healthcare provider as soon as possible.
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