Maintaining a Healthy Weight & Reducing the Risk of Diabetes in Seniors
Maintaining a healthy weight and regular exercise can help prevent prediabetes and diabetes in seniors, allowing them to continue leading rich, fulfilling lives. Type 2 diabetes is a serious disease that affects an estimated 25% of adults over 65, and 50% have prediabetes. Knowing more about diabetes empowers seniors and family caregivers to create healthy diet and exercise plans that can help prevent the disease or slow its progression
Prediabetes and Diabetes Types
Prediabetes – prediabetes is a period of high blood sugar that can only be diagnosed with testing. This means older adults may have prediabetes and not realize it. Almost everyone has prediabetes before diabetes, so regular screening is critical.
Type 1 diabetes – this type of diabetes usually starts in children or young adults and lasts for the rest of their lives. It is more likely to develop if you have a family history of diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes – this type of diabetes usually develops in middle-aged or older adults. It is most likely to develop in older adults who are inactive, overweight, or have a family history of diabetes.
Benefits of Seeing a Doctor Regularly for Diabetes Prevention
Preventive healthcare is essential to detecting health issues such as diabetes early. For an older adult with diabetes or possible prediabetes, these visits help manage the disease for better overall health and, in the case of prediabetes, possibly catch it before it starts.
Prevention and Management
Although regular preventive care or well visits are key to both prevention and management, there are actions an older adult can take every day to improve their general health. Learning more about diabetes is the first step toward prevention and management.
Successfully managing diabetes can help seniors feel more energized and motivated to do things that bring them joy. Their bodies are functioning better, which means more energy to do enjoyable activities, such as connecting with family and friends, walking their dogs, and other pastimes.
Weight and Diabetes
While a prediabetes or diabetes diagnosis is serious, there are things older adults can do to prevent or reduce the severity of the condition. Maintaining a healthy weight is one of the best things anyone can do for their health. Losing just 5-10% of body weight can significantly improve health and well-being. This means a 200-pound person will be healthier if they lose 10-20 pounds. Often, healthy weight loss helps people feel more energetic, sleep better, and reduces or eliminates the need for medication.
Exercise and Diabetes
Exercise has benefits in addition to helping with weight loss. It makes people feel healthier overall, sleep better, and have sharper mental function. For seniors with diabetes, it can also help them manage the condition. An active lifestyle makes the body more sensitive to insulin, so it won’t need to make as much. This means seniors won’t need to take as much medication to manage their diabetes. In addition, lower insulin levels can help prevent excess fat storage and weight gain.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), basic guidelines for physical activity include the following:
- Weekly: at least 150 minutes of brisk walking or other moderate activity, 75 minutes of more vigorous activity, or a combination of the two
- Two or more times per week: resistance exercises that involve every muscle group
For those who may not be used to exercising, finding something a senior loved one likes to do and starting small is key. If dancing or gardening brings them joy, then start there. A brisk walk to get the mail can also be a great place to kickstart a low-impact exercise routine.
Having someone to exercise with makes it more fun, which is one of the reasons our Interactive Caregiving™approach calls for our Comfort Keepers to do activities with seniors, not for them. The goal is to choose fun and enjoyable activities and never go more than two days without being active.
Before starting any new physical activity or increasing intensity, seniors should check with their doctor.
Questions to Ask Your Doctor about Diabetes
No matter their background or family history, older adults should schedule an appointment for a physical exam and talk to their doctor about ways to prevent diabetes. Here are a few questions to ask:
What health problems does diabetes cause for seniors?
Many conditions caused by diabetes can be serious and even life-threatening. Knowing what to expect helps older adults and family caregivers make a plan to manage the disease.
What types of diabetes are seniors at risk for?
Although developing type 1 diabetes as an older adult can happen, type 2 diabetes or prediabetes is more common. A visit to the doctor is necessary for a proper diagnosis.
How is diabetes treated in seniors?
Depending on the disease’s progression, type 2 diabetes is generally treated with a combination of diet, exercise, oral medication, or insulin as prescribed by a doctor.
Can diabetes be prevented in seniors?
If an older adult has prediabetes, maintaining a healthy weight, diet, and exercise can help reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
How can seniors manage their diabetes?
When an older adult is diagnosed with diabetes, their doctor or endocrinologist will help them develop a plan of action to keep the condition under control. In addition to the steps mentioned above, seniors may be asked to monitor several additional factors to help reduce diabetes complications, including checking their glucose levels, blood pressure, and cholesterol as well as keeping vaccinations up to date.
Comfort Keepers® of Myrtle Beach Can Help
Whether your loved one has prediabetes or type 2 diabetes, it’s not too late to take charge of the disease. Even small changes can make a big difference, and once healthy habits have been developed, seniors can better manage their diabetes. The knowledgeable and trusted team at Comfort Keepers® of Myrtle Beach can help your loved ones follow the health plan set by their doctor.
Our caregivers, who we call Comfort Keepers®, can help seniors prepare healthy meals, stick to an exercise plan, and provide transportation to preventive care and other doctor’s visits. Friendly, consistent support can help seniors make healthy changes in their lives—and make it fun at the same time. Our Comfort Keepers give seniors the encouragement they need to remain healthy, happy, and engaged in activities they love every day.