“My mother has always had a sweet tooth, but lately, I can’t seem to get her to eat anything but sugary snacks. I am worried this sugar addiction could lead to diabetes. Can that happen, and if so, is there anything I can do to prevent it?” – Margaret from Suwanee

You are right to be concerned about your mother’s sweet tooth; in fact, many seniors do tend to prefer sweets over more savory foods, thanks to a loss of sense of smell and taste as we age. The preference for sweets, if unchecked, could potentially lead to a prediabetic condition or type II diabetes. According to the Centers for Disease Control, over 25% of people 65 and older have been diagnosed with this metabolic disease, which in turn can cause other health problems down the road, including heart disease, adult-onset blindness, cardiovascular disease, and loss of lower limbs. Let’s take a closer look at why seniors with diabetes are common and how to stop this disease from limiting your loved one’s quality of life.

Increasing the Risk

If type-II diabetes can develop due to lifestyle, it makes sense that seniors would be at risk. While there is a genetic component to this disease process, it can also come about through poor diet, excess weight, sleep problems, and inactivity. These risk factors may seem like an accurate description of some of your loved one’s habits, and with reason. Seniors can struggle with mobility, which can make exercising a challenge. They may not always have access to nutritious foods, instead relying on convenience over quality. Excess weight can be a struggle to lose, especially if you can’t exercise or are on medications that cause weight gain. For seniors with diabetes, these factors may be difficult if not impossible to overcome.

Making Changes

Luckily, seniors with diabetes can modify some of their behaviors to improve their health, sometimes without the need to take medication or use insulin. Here are a few suggestions that can benefit elderly diabetic patients:

  • Monitor blood sugar. Your loved one is vulnerable to complications if his or her glucose levels aren’t closely watched. With regular checking, you or a caregiver can tell a medical professional if and when there is a problem.
  • Eat better. A healthy diet is pretty simple, if you think about it. Avoid processed foods or refined sugars and stick to whole foods such as grains, lean meats, fruits, and vegetables. If only it were that easy…
  • Exercise regularly. Regular movement is all it takes, so your loved one doesn’t need a gym membership or special equipment. Simple stretches, slow to moderate walking, swimming or water aerobics, dancing, or any activity your senior can do safely that he or she enjoys is better than nothing.
  • Lose weight. Again, losing weight is easier said than done, but luckily, your loved one doesn’t have to make an extreme change to reap the rewards. Even a lost of ten percent of total body weight may be enough to reduce the need for medication.
  • Get enough rest. A regular bedtime may make it easier to ensure your loved one is not in pain and getting adequate sleep.
  • Stop smoking. Every aspect of a senior’s wellness may be compromised due to smoking. One of the reasons smoking is bad for diabetics is that it can inhibit healing, especially for typical complications such as foot ulcers.
  • Manage blood pressure. Because of an increased risk of cardiovascular problems, it is imperative that seniors with diabetes monitor their blood pressure. You or a caregiver can record blood pressure information to track changes if they occur.
  • Look down. When was the last time you or a caregiver looked at your loved one’s feet? Make pedicures and feet inspection a regular part of your diabetic senior’s daily personal care to catch any changes before they go too far.

Don’t Panic

Seniors with diabetes can continue to enjoy a good quality of life with proper care. Be sure to talk about your concerns with your senior’s medical team for a proactive approach to your loved one’s health. By the way, these tips aren’t just for seniors; we could all see our health improve if we make these habits part of our everyday lives.

Good luck!


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