Over 30 million people in the United States have diabetes, and just over a quarter of those are aged 65 or older. That means that roughly 12 million seniors are currently living with diabetes in the United States alone.
If you are the caregiver of a senior with diabetes, the condition can pose some serious health concerns if not managed properly. At Oaks Senior Living, we know that managing diabetes can be a difficult task. Understanding diabetes and what steps need to be taken to manage it successfully are crucial. We want to provide tips for managing diabetes, particularly in seniors, to allow you to provide better care to your loved one.
Exercise and Active Aging
One way to manage diabetes is to increase the body's sensitivity to insulin which can be done through exercise. During exercise, our cells begin to utilize insulin and absorb sugar from our bloodstream to use as energy. In addition to increasing insulin sensitivity, exercise can lower blood pressure, give us more energy, improve sleep habits, increase levels of HDL (good cholesterol), and help to reduce feelings of stress. When it comes to diabetes and seniors, physical activity does not need to be intense to be beneficial. A simple brisk walk around a park or swimming a few laps at a pool can drastically help.
If you are looking for easy exercises for your loved one, we encourage you to read our Oaks Senior Living blog that shares simple workouts designed for seniors!
Keeping Track of Health
When dealing with diabetes in seniors, there is an increased risk of developing certain conditions such as heart disease, stroke, peripheral neuropathy (weakness or numbness in extremities), and other complications. With these increased risks comes an increased need for awareness and care.
Examining feet, eyesight, and glucose levels can all be done at home, however, having regular checkups with your loved one’s primary physician is also essential to ensure their best health. It is also recommended that your loved one has their eyesight and kidneys tested at least once a year.
Crafting a Diabetic Diet
Managing diabetes does come with restrictions or lower intake of certain foods, such as trans fats, sugary drinks i.e., soda and artificially sweetened drinks, dried fruits, and bread. While this may limit options for the senior in your life, there are still other fantastic foods that make perfect meals and snacks for those with diabetes.
If you’re building a diet for your loved one with diabetes, consider the following food items:
- Fish - Fish such as salmon, anchovies, herring, and mackerel are all great choices as they provide Omega-3 fatty acids like DHA and EPA. DHA and EPA are both beneficial to heart health, but also help protect the cells that line blood vessels and reduce inflammation.
- Cinnamon - Cinnamon is rich with antioxidants, and recent studies have found that it can also help improve the body’s sensitivity to insulin.
- Eggs - Eggs are a great source of protein, can help reduce the chance of heart disease, decrease inflammation, and improve the body’s sensitivity to insulin.
- Greek Yogurt - This option has been shown to help boost blood sugar control as well as reduce the risk of heart disease, thanks to the probiotics. Research has shown that it may help with weight loss and overall body improvements for those with diabetes.
- Apple Cider Vinegar - Although this is made with apples (a fruit those with diabetes should try to avoid), during the fermentation process, those harmful traits are lost. Apple cider vinegar has been shown to improve the body’s sensitivity to insulin and help lower blood sugar response by up to 20% according to a study conducted by the National Hellenic Research Foundation.
While there are plenty of food options we didn’t mention, introducing these and similar foods into your loved one’s diet can help manage their diabetes diagnosis. If you need more help creating a diabetic diet, The American Diabetes Association is a recommended resource that can provide more in-depth food and meal prepping guides!
Managing diabetes can be difficult, but taking necessary precautions and being active in the management of your loved one’s diabetes and health can improve their overall quality of life. For more information regarding nutrition or healthy aging, we encourage you to visit our Oaks Senior Living blog!