With some 25% of older Americans stricken with diabetes, those taking care of elderly loved ones have a big motivation to help their loved ones prevent the development of diabetes. Diabetes is not only difficult to manage in and of itself; it also is often associated with many other complications which can make taking care of elderly loved ones very challenging.
For example, many elderly individuals with diabetes may experience visual impairment, a decline in cognitive function, or the necessity of amputation of a limb — any of which can not only decrease their quality of life but also lead to more day-to-day challenges.
According to the National Institutes of Health’s Senior Health portal, there are 3 steps that seniors and those taking care of elderly individuals should focus on in order to decrease the risk of developing diabetes. These steps include:
1. Reach and maintain a reasonable weight.
Obesity is one of the most consistent risk factors associated with diabetes, no matter the age of the individual. When a person is overweight, this negatively impacts their body’s ability to make insulin, which leads to blood glucose issues.
2. Make healthy food choices.
Diet is one of the most effective ways of keeping one’s weight at an appropriate level. Food choices that can help prevent diabetes include opting for foods that are lower in calories, saturated fats, trans fats, sugar, and salt. It also means trying to eat more of healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables, as well as foods that are high in fiber.
Dietary choices also extend to liquids. Drinking more water and fewer juices and sugary drinks helps keep diabetes at bay as well.
3. Be physically active.
Everyone needs to get an adequate amount of exercise to stay healthy — and that exercise helps maintain a good weight and keep diabetes risks lower. Often older adults or those taking care of elderly individuals find it difficult to get sufficient exercise. However, it’s important to remember that exercise does not have to mean going to a gym and working out with heavy weights or playing a game of football.
The general recommendation is for 30 minutes of exercise, five times a week. This exercise may include simply walking, as well as other enjoyable activities like swimming or dancing.
Those taking care of elderly individuals and the seniors themselves will find that strategies that help prevent diabetes also can improve overall health.