Public Health

Live Your Best Life: How to Manage Diabetes as You Age

Older couple checking blood sugar

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Today, more than a quarter of American adults ages 65 and older have diabetes. At AdventHealth, we've helped thousands of people delay and even defeat many of the physical and emotional complications associated with diabetes.

We believe knowledge is power, and when you’re better informed, you’re better prepared to take back control of your lifelong health and wellness. Learn more about how you can live your best life with your diabetes diagnosis.

The Prevalence of Diabetes

There are several different types of diabetes; the most common is Type 2 diabetes, which occurs when your body becomes resistant to a hormone called insulin. Initially, the body makes more insulin to compensate, but over time the amount of insulin produced can’t keep up with the increased demand.

Normally, insulin helps move blood sugar from the food that you eat into your cells for energy. Without enough insulin, blood sugar builds up in your bloodstream. Over time, it can cause health problems.

How Diabetes Affects Your Health

Older adults are more likely to experience complications due to Type 2 diabetes, such as:

  • Dental problems and gum disease
  • Eye problems that can lead to blindness
  • Hearing loss
  • Heart disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Nerve damage
  • Skin infections
  • Stroke

The recommendations for managing Type 2 diabetes are generally the same for older adults as they are for everyone. The most important thing you can do is work closely with your health care team. Together, you can determine what your targeted blood glucose levels should be and the best course of treatment for you.

Your Plan of Action

Taking steps every single day to manage your diabetes will help reduce your risk of developing complications as you age. Here are three key things you can do every day that will make a difference:

1. Take Your Medicine

The initial treatment of Type 2 diabetes is usually through medication. As you get older, you’re more likely to need insulin to treat Type 2 diabetes because your body makes less insulin the older you get.

Insulin can’t be taken in a pill; you’ll either inject it or receive it through a pump. You may also take pills to help lower your blood glucose or manage other pre-existing conditions. It’s important to take all your medicine exactly as your doctor prescribes. Here are some ways to do just that:

  • Keep a current list of all the medicines you take. These include prescriptions, over-the-counter medications and supplements. Update the list any time your medicines change
  • Use one pharmacy for all your medicines
  • Use a pill organizer to make sure you take your medicines at the right time every day
  • Set a reminder, such as an alarm on your mobile phone, so you know when it’s time to take your medicine

2. Eat a Healthy Diet

When you have diabetes, focus on eating a healthy, well-balanced diet that provides your body with the nutrients it needs. The American Diabetes Association recommends using a tool called “Create Your Plate.” This approach helps make sure you fill your plate with a variety of food groups. It also keeps your serving sizes in check, which can help you manage your weight. Here’s how to create your plate:

  • Imagine a line down the center of your plate that divides it in half. Then, divide one of the two sides in half again so that you have three sections in total
  • In the largest section, put a non-starchy vegetable. Some examples are salad, broccoli, carrots or tomatoes
  • In one of the smaller sections, put a starchy food such as pasta, rice or potatoes
  • In the other small section, put a protein, such as skinless chicken or turkey, fish, lean cuts of meat, tofu, eggs or low-fat cheese

3. Get Plenty of Physical Activity

Exercise can help you control your weight. If you have diabetes and you’re overweight, losing just 10 to 15 pounds can make a big difference to your health. Exercise offers additional benefits for managing diabetes. For example, increasing your physical activity can help:

  • Boost your energy
  • Control your blood pressure
  • Improve your glucose levels
  • Lower your cholesterol levels
  • Reduce your risk for heart disease and stroke

Aim for 30 minutes of aerobic exercise at least five times per week. Some examples of aerobics include walking, riding your bike, playing tennis and gardening.

Also, do strength-training exercises at least twice a week at a level you can tolerate. You can lift weights, use resistance bands, stretching exercises or tai chi. Always talk with your provider before starting an exercise program to make sure it’s safe for you.

Get Treated Like a VIP at AdventHealth Well 65+

Managing diabetes is a team effort. Remember that you’re the VIP on your diabetes care team. Whenever you have questions or notice any changes to your health status, discuss them with all members of your care team. Together, you can address them and prevent more serious problems from occurring.

Learn more about how to stay well at 65+ by visiting us here. You deserve to feel whole for life.

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