Managing diabetes isn’t just a daily, weekly or monthly task – it’s a life time diagnosis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) more than 100 million adults in the United States live with diabetes or prediabetes. And the rates of being diagnosed with diabetes increases with age. Adults who are age 65 and older make up 25% of the population with diabetes. Is your senior loved one a part of the 25%? If they are, you can help them manage their diabetes and maintain a healthier lifestyle.
There are two main types of diabetes people can have:
Type 1 Diabetes: This is when your body doesn’t make insulin. Your body needs insulin to take the sugar (glucose) from the foods you eat and turn it into energy. It’s essential to have insulin every day to live.
Type 2 Diabetes: When your body doesn’t make or use insulin well. You might have to take pills or insulin to control your diabetes. This is the most common type of diabetes.
Here are five tips on helping your loved one manage their diabetes.
- Incorporate exercise into your daily routine.
Find a way to be active at least 30 minutes a day, five times a week. Whether it’s walking, biking or going to a yoga class with friends, get moving! Find an activity you enjoy doing. When you get your body moving, your muscles use sugar (glucose) for energy. It also helps your body use insulin more efficiently. Overall, this helps lower your blood sugar levels.
- Eat a healthier diet.
Having a variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains at each meal can help you monitor your blood sugar levels. Aim to eat foods that are lower in carbohydrates and higher in fiber. You can talk with your doctor or work with a dietitian about a food plan that works best for you. Try and avoid foods with a lot of sugar, such as sugar-sweetened drinks or high fructose corn syrup or sucrose. These types of foods are usually higher in calories and offer little to no nutrition. They can cause an unnecessary increase in your blood sugar.
- Understand your numbers.
It’s important to keep track of your cholesterol level, blood sugar level (A1c), blood pressure and your weight when living a life with diabetes. Work with your doctor on understanding what range you should be in for each category. They can help you create a plan to test these numbers regularly and how to lower them if needed. For example, if you gain weight over the winter and aren’t very active, they may suggest to start a light exercise routine to help you lose those extra winter pounds.
- Monitor alcohol consumption.
Drinking alcohol can complicate your diabetes. It can cause nerve damage, eye disease and lower your blood sugar. Talk with your doctor to see if it’s okay for you to consume alcohol. If you’re going to consume alcohol, choose your drinks wisely and drink in moderation. Pick something with lower sugar such as light beer or a dry wine. It’s okay for you to still enjoy life and have fun, just be conscious of your choices.
- Keep your stress level low.
Having a high stress life can cause your body to produce that may cause your blood sugar levels to rise. It can also be hard to manage your diabetes when you’re in a high stress environment, such as moving from your home to an assisted living community. It can bring on a wave of new emotions like anxiety about not knowing anyone in your new home. Talk with your family members or friends about your feelings and work on balancing out these stressors. Exercise is also a great way to lower your stress.
Living your life with diabetes doesn’t have to be complicated. If you stay active, maintain a healthy diet and understand how to monitor your numbers to help manage your diabetes – you can still enjoy everyday life. Being healthier will allow you to keep up with your kids or grandkids, and maybe even try a new activity or hobby!
If your senior loved one is struggling with managing their diabetes or other health issues, check out our eNewsletter! It will give you access to caregiving advice, care options and other resources for an aging parent.