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Diabetes Prevention and Care for Seniors

Half of all Americans age 65 or older have pre-diabetes and are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

Published: Oct 13, 2015

Diabetes Prevention and Care for Seniors

Half of all Americans age 65 or older have pre-diabetes and are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes. An estimated 11.2 million (nearly 26 percent) Americans over age 65 have already been diagnosed with diabetes, a figure that will continue to increase if no action is taken to prevent diabetes in this population. Furthermore, one out of every three Medicare dollars is spent on diabetes.

However, it is known how to prevent and/or delay type 2 diabetes so these trends do not have to continue.

Diabetes Prevention Tips

Diabetes prevention is as basic as eating more healthy foods, becoming more physically active, and losing a few extra pounds—and it's never too late to start at any age. Making a few simple changes in lifestyle now may help a person avoid the serious health complications of diabetes down the road, such as nerve, kidney, and heart damage. Consider the latest diabetes prevention tips.

Get More Physical Activity

There are many benefits to regular physical activity. Exercise can help with weight loss, lower blood sugar, and boost sensitivity to insulin to keep blood sugar within a normal range.

As people get older, aging joints can make it more painful to exercise, but being sedentary will only make problems worse. If a senior is able, both aerobic exercise and resistance training can help control diabetes, but the greater benefit comes from a fitness program that includes a bit of both.

Many seniors make walking part of their daily routine because it’s low-impact, fun, and convenient. Senior swim classes and sessions are another great way to get low-impact exercise.

Senior Centers and organizations are a good resource for finding senior fitness and exercise programs in local communities, such as “mall walking” teams that make regular exercise possible even during bad weather.

Ways seniors can get exercise at home include marching in place for 10 minutes, stretching while watching TV, or walking long hallways or walkways if the senior lives in an apartment building or complex.

Seniors should exercise 30 minutes, five days per week. It’s fine to break up 30 minutes of exercise into smaller increments, such as three 10-minute periods. Keep in mind that seniors should check with their doctors before starting any exercise program.

Lose that Extra Weight

If a senior overweight, diabetes prevention may hinge on weight loss. Every pound lost can improve health, and it’s surprising by how much. Participants in one large study who lost a modest amount of weight—around 7 percent of initial body weight—and exercised regularly reduced the risk of developing diabetes by almost 60 percent.

Make Healthy Food Choices

What someone eats has a big impact on weight and overall health. Developing healthy eating habits can help manage body weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol. Reducing portion size, increasing the amount of fiber consumed (by eating more fruits and vegetables), and limiting fatty and salty foods are key to a healthy diet.

Here are more guidelines for eating well to help prevent diabetes.

  • Establish a diabetes meal plan with help from the health care team.
  • Choose foods that are lower in calories, saturated fat, trans fat, sugar, and salt.
  • Include foods with more fiber, such as whole grain cereals, breads, crackers, rice, or pasta.
  • Choose foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, bread and cereals, and low-fat or skim milk and cheese.
  • Replace juice and soda with water.
  • Fill half of the senior’s meal plate with fruits and vegetables, one quarter with a lean protein, such as beans, or chicken or turkey without the skin, and one quarter with a whole grain, such as brown rice or whole wheat pasta.

Preventing or helping to control diabetes in seniors can be possible when proper guidelines are followed. Caregivers and families can play an important role by keeping a watchful eye on seniors to make sure they are making the right lifestyle choices when it comes to exercise, weight, and diet. Helping seniors find exercise programs that are suitable for their age group and physical abilities, making grocery lists together, assisting with food shopping, and overseeing meal preparation and food portioning are all great ways to start.


“Preventing Diabetes in Seniors.” American Diabetes Foundation. Web. 2015.

“Diabetes Prevention.” NIH Senior Health Newsletter. National Institutes of Health (NIH). Web. 2015.
“Diabetes Prevention.” American Medical Association (AMA). Web. 2014.

“Diabetes Prevention: 5 Tips for Taking Control. Diseases and Conditions. Mayo Clinic. Web 2013


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