How to manage diabetes in old age?

Diabetes is a chronic condition that requires careful management throughout one’s life. This is particularly important for older individuals, as they may face additional health challenges and complications. By implementing specific strategies and making lifestyle changes, seniors can effectively manage their diabetes and maintain good health. Here are nine important tips to help older people with diabetes stay healthier and more active:

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  • Eat Healthy: A healthy diet is essential for managing diabetes. Seniors should focus on consuming a balanced diet that is low in sugar, including sugar from fruits, and saturated fats. It can be helpful to consult with a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) who specializes in diabetes education. Medicare covers yearly visits to a diabetes educator, reducing out-of-pocket expenses for seniors.
  • Stay Active: Regular physical activity is beneficial for controlling blood glucose levels, managing weight, and maintaining overall strength. The American Diabetes Association recommends at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise, such as walking, swimming, or bicycling, at least five days a week. Seniors can split this activity into three 10-minute sessions throughout the day. Additionally, incorporating strength training exercises, like free weights, resistance bands, or yoga, at least twice a week helps build muscle and further regulates glucose levels. Consult a healthcare professional to determine appropriate exercises for individual circumstances.
  • Check Glucose Levels Regularly: Monitoring blood glucose levels is crucial, especially for older individuals taking insulin or experiencing difficulties in controlling their blood sugar. Older people with diabetes are at a higher risk of experiencing hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) when using diabetes medications, making regular glucose monitoring essential. Symptoms of hypoglycemia include confusion, dizziness, hunger, and sweating. If hypoglycemia is suspected, consuming 10 to 20 grams of sugar or carbohydrates, such as juice, crackers, honey, or glucose tablets, is recommended. Recheck blood glucose levels after 15 minutes, and repeat the process if levels remain low. Seeking medical attention is necessary if glucose levels do not improve, and it’s important to inform healthcare professionals about frequent episodes of hypoglycemia.
  • Never Miss a Dose of Medication: It can be easy to forget to take diabetes medication, but adherence is crucial. Various methods can help with medication organization, such as pill boxes, alarms on electronic devices (phones, computers, watches, or clocks), and charts to track daily intake. Additionally, mobile prescription therapy products are available for smartphones or tablets, aiding in diabetes management. These applications provide reminders to take medication, offer guidance on treating low blood glucose levels, and prompt rechecking glucose levels for safety.
  • Get Blood Pressure and Cholesterol Levels Checked Regularly: Controlling blood pressure and cholesterol levels is important for reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke. Seniors should consult with their healthcare professional about quitting smoking, maintaining healthy blood pressure, and managing cholesterol levels effectively.
  • Examine Your Feet Every Day: Foot care is crucial for individuals with diabetes. Older individuals should inspect their feet daily for any cuts or signs of infection. Using a mirror or seeking assistance from family members if visibility is limited can help with thorough foot examinations. If cuts or infected red patches are detected, immediate medical attention should be sought. Seniors should also keep their feet clean, moisturize them to prevent dryness, and wear comfortable shoes that do not cause blisters.
  • Get Vaccinated: Vaccinations are vital for older individuals with diabetes to reduce the risk of complications. It is recommended to receive the flu vaccine annually in the fall, and the pneumonia vaccine is particularly important for individuals aged 65 and above or those who received the pneumonia vaccine before turning 60.
  • Hearing Tests: Hearing loss is common as people age, and it is more prevalent among older adults with diabetes. As hearing loss typically progresses gradually, individuals may not immediately realize they are experiencing hearing difficulties. Seniors who have trouble hearing or whose family and friends notice issues should consult their healthcare professional to arrange a hearing test.
  • Regular Medical Check-ups: Lastly, it is important for seniors with diabetes to have regular medical check-ups to monitor their overall health and diabetes management. Routine visits with healthcare professionals allow for early detection of any complications or changes in treatment plans.
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By following these nine tips, older individuals with diabetes can effectively manage their condition, reduce the risk of complications, and lead a healthier and more active life. Diabetes does not have to hinder one’s quality of life, and with proper care and management, seniors can enjoy a fulfilling and independent lifestyle.

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