Diabetes management… 7 top considerations for seniors

Diabetes management… 7 top considerations for seniors

Diabetes is a serious disease affecting people of all ages. It requires special considerations for seniors and older adults.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease that is caused by the pancreas not functioning properly. The pancreas produces insulin, that acts to break down the foods we eat, such as sugars, fats, and starches. The resulting byproducts provide nutrition to our organs and cells. Diabetes results when the pancreas does not make enough insulin or the insulin isn’t being used well. The outcome is elevated blood sugar or glucose. Depending on the type of diabetes, the management is different, and there are specific diabetes considerations for seniors.

Types of diabetes

There are two main types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is sometimes called juvenile diabetes because it is often seen first in children, but adults can develop type 1 diabetes as well. This type of diabetes occurs when the pancreas stops producing insulin. People with type 1 diabetes are insulin-dependent. In other words, they need insulin injections to manage their blood sugar.

In type 2 diabetes, the pancreas is still producing insulin, but it may not be enough or isn’t being used well by the body. Obesity is often the cause of type 2 diabetes and can be improved and managed by weight loss, exercise, and oral medications.

Common symptoms of diabetes or pre-diabetes are:

  • Increased thirst or hunger
  • Increased urination
  • Unintended weight loss

Additionally, some people experience:

  • tiredness
  • blurred vision
  • slowly healing sores or wounds

Prediabetes is when blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be considered diabetes.

The ability of those with prediabetes to slow or prevent the development of diabetes can be achieved with some effort. For example, eating healthy foods, losing weight, and including daily exercise can help keep pre-diabetes from becoming type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes management

Depending on the type of diabetes, treatments vary. For type 1 diabetes, insulin injections are needed to replace what the pancreas has stopped producing. Close monitoring of blood sugar levels is critical for determining insulin requirements. This is directly associated with foods eaten and energy expended. Frequent monitoring is needed, and a physician’s evaluation and prescription are necessary for successful insulin therapy.

For type 2 diabetes, oral medication and diet modification commonly result in achieving healthy blood sugar levels. Losing weight is essential, with obesity being one of the main causes of insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes in adults and children. Insulin resistance is the lack of the body to use the insulin that is present.

7 top diabetes considerations for seniors

1. Have regular eye examinations.

Vision is something that slowly declines with age. Diabetes may further compromise eyesight by damaging blood vessels over time. As a result, poor vision can hinder mobility, accuracy with medications, and blood glucose monitoring. Additionally, elevated blood sugar levels can cause blurred vision which may be a warning to those not yet diagnosed.

2. Monitor your blood pressure.

Elevated blood pressure is common in older adults. Elevated blood pressure puts a strain on kidney function that is already at risk in the presence of diabetes. Continue your physician prescribed blood pressure medications and keep a log of blood pressures checks between doctor visits.

3. Take care of your skin and check your feet daily.

Over time, high glucose levels can cause damage to the lining of small blood vessels, compounding the changes that occur naturally with aging. Consequently, the result is decreased circulation, particularly in the extremities. Additionally, as people get older, their skin thins and becomes drier, and less elastic. In other words, it is less able to protect itself from damage. 

Without adequate blood flow, wounds cannot heal. Therefore, checking your skin should become a routine. Practicing good foot care helps to avoid small cuts or bruises from developing into non-healing wounds that can lead to amputation.

4. Maximize your overall health.

Make sure to get all the recommended vaccines. Pneumonia and shingles vaccines are suggesed for those over 50. These are important ways to protect health and result in improved immunity against these diseases. Moreover, flu shots should be received every year.

5. Eat a proper diet that includes a balance of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.

  • Carbohydrates have had a bad reputation for diabetics. But all carbohydrates are not created equal. Complex carbohydrates, or those high in fiber, are an important part of a healthy diet for managing blood sugar levels.

Healthy or complex carbohydrates include:

Complex carbohydrates are an important part of the diet for seniors managing diabetes.
  • whole-grain bread, brown rice and, whole-wheat cereals,
  • fresh fruits and vegetables,
  • legumes.

Unhealthy simple carbohydrates to avoid include:

Simple or refined carbohydrates should be avoided by seniors managing diabetes.
  1. – table sugar, honey, jelly
  2. – packaged baked goods
  3. – sweetened canned fruits and yogurt
  4. – sweets and candy
  • Protein is an important and necessary part of a healthy diet when managing blood sugar levels. Protein choices include broiled or baked lean meats, skinless poultry, and fish. In addition, legumes, eggs, low-fat dairy, and nuts are healthy protein sources.
  • Fats are also an important part of a healthy diet, however, they must be chosen wisely. Healthy fats include:
  • olives and olive oil
  • avocado
  • nuts
  • oily fish

6. Don’t skip meals.

Aging may result in a decline in memory or the ability to prepare meals. Moreover, seniors may forget or lose their desire to eat. Making a menu for the week with simple to fix and easy to eat meals is helpful as well as setting reminder alarms, as needed.

Skipping meals can result in dangerously low blood sugar levels or hypoglycemia. Signs of hypoglycemia include symptoms such as confusion, loss of consciousness and may require urgent medical attention.

7. See your dentist regularly.

Aging results in changes in the mouth, such as dryness, increased cavities, and gum disease. Additionally, over time, elevated blood sugar can increase the risk for oral health problems such as ulcers, and infections, consequently, hindering the ability to chew, eat, or even taste food properly.

To sum up, diabetes considerations for seniors…

Understanding diabetes and how to manage it is essential for everyone. Diabetes affects so many areas of the body which are compounded by age-related changes. These special diabetes considerations for seniors pose an additional layer of awareness necessary to ensure the health of older adults.

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