Health Care

Managing Diabetes as You Age

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Today, more than a quarter of U.S. adults age 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 control over your lifelong health and wellness. Learn more about how you can live your best life despite your diabetes diagnosis.

Noriecel Mendoza, MD

“Diabetes in the elderly is linked to higher risk for death, reduced functional abilities and increased need for assisted living care. According to the CDC statistics, the incidence of diabetes increases as we grow older until about age 65, when the prevalence seems to level off. Other projections suggest that we will see the rate of diagnosed diabetes cases in people age 65 and older increase by 4.5 times by the year 2050 (Source: Diabetes Care 2006). That compares to a diabetes rate increase of 3 times in the overall population. We are always taught to individualize treatment plans for patients. But I also believe we really have to dedicate more attention to issues relevant to this age group like the use of multiple medications and with that, drug interactions. Close follow-up with patients is very important, and I also encourage them to always give feedback about their treatment plan.”

Noriecel Mendoza, MD

AdventHealth Medical Group Endocrinology at Hendersonville*

81 Doctors Drive

Hendersonville, NC 28792

p Call828-650-6681 • f Call828-687-9271

Click here to learn more about Dr. Mendoza.

The Prevalence of Diabetes

There are several different types of diabetes and the most common is type 2. It 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

In general, the recommendations for managing type 2 diabetes are the same for younger and older adults. The most important thing you can do is work closely with your health care team. Together you can determine what your blood glucose level goals 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 age, you’re more likely to need insulin to treat type 2 diabetes. That’s because your body makes less insulin as you get older. 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 that you take. These include prescriptions, over-the-counter medicines 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 when you’re supposed to.
  • 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, you should 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. Be physically active. Exercise can also help you control your weight. If you have diabetes and are overweight, losing just 10 to 15 pounds can make a difference. Exercise offers additional benefits for managing diabetes. For example, increasing your physical activity can help:

  • Boost your energy
  • Control your blood pressure
  • Improve your blood sugar 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 include walking, riding your bike, playing tennis or gardening. Do strength-training exercises at least twice per week. You could lift weights, use resistance bands, or do yoga or tai chi. Always talk with your doctor before starting an exercise program to make sure it’s safe for you.

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

We’re here to help you take charge of your health. Learn more about AdventHealth’s diabetes care and services here.

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