Type 2 Diabetes and Senior Health

September 29, 2017

Despite the tremendous efforts given towards Type 2 diabetes prevention in this country, the numbers of those affected are still alarmingly high; it’s likely you know someone who’s been diagnosed or is about to be. Right now almost 30 million Americans suffer from Type 2 diabetes, with an estimated 8 million more undiagnosed and unaware they have a problem. Among seniors, the percentages are even higher, with one in four people over 65 diagnosed.
What makes seniors so susceptible? Several of the biggest risk factors for Type 2 occur disproportionately in the elder population, including cumulative weight gain; heart disease; high blood pressure; high cholesterol, and physical inactivity. And seniors’ vulnerability doesn’t stop there. Once they are diagnosed, adults 60 and up are at greater risk for developing the disease’s ravaging side effects, including diabetic retinopathy; kidney disease; hypertension, and depression.
Luckily there’s a positive flipside to these findings, having to do with prevention. Research has proven conclusively that, even for seniors at greater risk, Type 2 diabetes can be preventable or delayable through meaningful lifestyle changes. If mom or dad or a senior you know could use a jumpstart in the right direction, here are some guidelines to consider:
Start with the Big Three
   That’s right – diet, weight, and exercise – what we hear about at every check-up. They’re what drive good health for adults of all ages, and nowhere are these lifestyle elements more important than in Type 2 diabetes prevention. In fact, for seniors 60 and up, watching these three factors alone can decrease one’s chances of becoming pre-diabetic by over 70%. Where to begin? We all do better when we’re accountable: so if you’re trying to help mom or dad take the first step, encourage them to start by working with their physician to set realistic, achievable goals for success. If they’re part of an elderly community or senior center, urge them to sigh up for fitness and nutrition classes, or join a walking group. The National Institutes of Health’s Easy Steps to Being More Active is also a great resource for achievable ways to get started.
Stay Accountable and Get Monitored
Remaining under regular doctor’s care is critical to diabetes prevention for a number of reasons. Setting goals together is one thing; seeing a physician regularly to check in and track progress makes it a lot more likely that Dad will stick to those goals at a pace that’s both productive and safe. And because indicators like blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels can function as warning signs, it’s critical they are professionally monitored as another means of tracking one’s risk for becoming diabetic.
Consider Joining a Program
There’s so much support out there for seniors trying to stay healthy – why not encourage mom to take advantage? One option we like is the National Diabetes Prevention Program sponsored by Centers for Disease Control. Based on NIH research, the NDPP is a research-driven program meant to connect members with both online and actual communities and support groups, to boost chances of long-term success rates. It also provides access to lifestyle coaching, educational materials, recipes, and exercise guidelines.
For more information on Type 2 diabetes and seniors, head to the American Diabetes Association.