Diabetes is often a life-long condition and requires careful treatment. By sticking to your meal plan changes, exercise, and medication plan, you can live a long and healthy life. To help older people with diabetes to stay health and active are the following tips.
All people with diabetes should eat a healthy diet that is low in sugar (including sugar from fruit) and saturated fats. It may help to see a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) who is a diabetes educator to help you create a healthy meal plan. Medicare will cover the visits every year so you would not have to pay out of pocket for the visit.
Aerobic exercise such as walking, swimming, and bicycling can help you control your glucose level, manage your weight, and stay strong. The American Diabetes Association recommends exercising 30 minutes each day, at least 5 days a week.
You can split up the exercise into 10-minutes of activity 3 times a day. In addition, do strength training such as free weights, resistance bands, or yoga, at least 2 times per week. Strength training builds muscle and helps control glucose levels. Talk to your healthcare professional to see what exercises are right for you.
Check Glucose Levels Regularly
Your healthcare professional will tell you how and when to check your blood glucose level. In general, people taking insulin, those who are having a hard time controlling blood glucose levels, or have hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) need to monitor their blood glucose levels regularly.
Older people with diabetes are at higher risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) when taking diabetes medications, making it especially important to check your glucose levels. Symptoms of hypoglycemia include confusion, dizziness, hunger, and sweating.
If you or a loved one with diabetes shows signs of hypoglycemia, eat 10-20 grams of sugar or carbohydrates (1/2 cup juice or soda, 4-5 crackers, 1 teaspoon of honey, or glucose tablets) and retest the blood glucose level after about 15 minutes and repeat these steps if the levels are still low. Seek medical attention if the blood glucose levels don’t get better and tell your healthcare professional if you have hypoglycemia often.
Never Miss a Dose of Medication
It is easy to forget if you have taken your diabetes medication. Luckily, there are a variety of ways to organize your medicines (such as a pill box) and alarms that you can use on your phone, computer, watch, clock, as a reminder to take your medication. You can also use a chart to check off when you take your medicine each day.
In addition, if you have a smart phone or tablet computer, mobile prescription therapy products are available to help you manage diabetes. If your blood glucose level is too low, for example, the program will tell you how to treat the problem and will prompt you to recheck your blood glucose levels shortly after to make sure your blood glucose is at a safe level.
Get Blood Pressure and Cholesterol Levels Checked Regularly
To reduce your risk for heart disease and stroke, talk to your healthcare professional about quitting smoking and controlling your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Examine Your Feet Every Day
Make sure to look at your feet every day for cuts or signs of infection. Use a mirror or ask a family member to help you if you have trouble seeing your feet. If you do see a cut or red patch that looks infected, call your healthcare professional immediately. Keep your feet clean, use lotion to avoid dryness, and wear comfortable shoes that will not cause blisters.
It is important to get the flu vaccine each fall and the pneumonia vaccine if you are over 65 years old or if you received a pneumonia vaccine before the age of 60. These vaccines are important for all older people, but are especially important for older people with diabetes who are at higher risk for complications from the flu.
Hearing loss is common as we age, and is even more common among older adults with diabetes. Hearing loss slowly worsens over time, making it hard to realize when you are having hearing problems. If you have trouble hearing or your family and friends notice that you can’t hear them talk or turn up the TV or radio loudly, talk to your healthcare professional about having your hearing tested.
Visit Your Dentist
People with diabetes are more likely to have dental problems and gum disease. Visit your dentist regularly and tell your dentist if your gums bleed or are red.
American Diabetes Association. Living Healthy With Diabetes. http://main.diabetes.org/dorg/PDFs/living-healthy-booklet-american-diabetes-assoc.pdf. Accessed February 25, 2015.
American Diabetes Association. Mobile Prescription Therapy. http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/medication/other-treatments/mobile-prescription-therapy.html. Accessed February 25, 2015.
American Diabetes Association. What We Recommend. http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/fitness/types-of-activity/what-we-recommend.html. Accessed February 25, 2015.
Robinson L, Segal J. Chair Exercises and Limited Mobility Fitness. http://www.helpguide.org/articles/exercise-fitness/chair-exercises-and-limited-mobility-fitness.htm. February 25, 2015.