Seniors And Diabetes

two older gentlemen hugging

( It should come as no surprise to any of us to hear that Diabetes is one of the top contributors to death in America today. Notice I said America, not the world.

You see, here in America we have skyrocketing diabetes rates among almost every segment of the population: women; men; children; and even the elderly.

Large amounts of muscle fat or abdominal fat may put elderly men and women with normal body weight at risk for developing Type 2 diabetes. Even though they’re not overweight, they may still be at risk for developing diabetes. An important factor in that risk is where their body fat is stored. The prevalence of Type 2 diabetes is highest among men and women over age 65, but the level of obesity in this group is only 14 percent, compared with 24 percent for people in their 50s.

What this suggests is that obesity isn’t the only factor that causes diabetes or glucose intolerance in elderly men and women. Fat distribution is also a key determination of those health issues in elderly people.  The effects of diabetes are tremendous no matter what age, but definitely as we age and the body doesn’t “bounce back” from damage or stress quite as easily, putting diabetes on top of that just aggravates the problems.

Also, with the aging process, many people change their eating habits, due to loss of teeth or dental problems, and those kinds of things can make it difficult to eat a well-balanced diet and stay healthy overall.

Here are some facts about the incidence of Diabetes in Seniors:

  • Diabetes prevalence increases with age.
  • Approximately half of all diabetes cases occur in people older than 55 years of age.
  • The risk for type 2 diabetes increases with age.  Nearly 20% of the United States population or seven (7) million people age 65 and older have diabetes.   People with diabetes represent 18% of all nursing home residents and tend to be younger than non-diabetic residents.
  • Approximately 65% of people with diabetes will die of heart disease or stroke, and they are likely to die younger than people who do not have diabetes.
  • Diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness in adults 20 to 74 years of age.
  • People with diabetes who are over 65 years of age are twice as likely to be hospitalized for kidney infections compared with those without diabetes.
  • About 60-70% of people with diabetes have mild to severe forms of diabetic nerve damage, which, in severe forms, can lead to lower limb amputations.

Now, before you start thinking the worst, there is hope: It is possible to prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes by reducing lifestyle risk factors through moderate weight loss and increased physical activity.  I am of the opinion that there are some specific areas of focus that are important to minimize the possibility of Diabetes plaguing your “golden years:”

Carbohydrate in the food we eat has the greatest impact on our blood sugars.

Diets high in complex carbs (like vegetables, root crops, whole grains and fruit) provide healthy nutrition for a long healthy life without heart disease and cancer. But with diabetes, carbohydrates must be balanced with insulin (whether it is injected or internally produced) or exercise to keep blood sugars normal. Balancing carbohydrates with insulin lets you keep your blood sugars controlled, and carbohydrate counting is an important tool for doing this. I’m sure you hear talk of counting carbohydrates in your diet. Trust me; it can make a difference in what kind of health you will enjoy as you age.

Let me leave you with a reminder about the 4 main complications that all diabetics are at risk for:

Kidney Disease
Elevated blood sugar will cause elevated blood pressure. If a person has high blood pressure and diabetes, their risk of kidney disease is even greater. Continuing high blood pressure causes damage to the kidney’s filtration mechanisms, and they can eventually fail. If the kidneys are not able to filter out the toxins and waste products, the person with diabetes would need either dialysis or a kidney transplant. The doctor should monitor kidney function with blood tests that are done during checkups.

Vision Loss or Blindness
Diabetics are at greater risk of glaucoma and vascular disease, which can affect vision. This can lead to severe <A href=”

Take Charge Of Your Diabetes


smiling older african american man

Controlling Your Diabetes

Controlling Your Diabetes

  • Keeping a Balance
  • A Few Things About Food
  • A Few Things About Physical Activity
  • A Few Things About Diabetes Medicine

There’s good news for people with diabetes. Studies show that keeping your
blood glucose (also called blood sugar) close to normal helps prevent or delay
some diabetes problems.

Through careful control, at least half of the expected eye disease, kidney
disease, and nerve damage can be prevented or slowed. People who were in the
study had Type 1 diabetes, but many doctors believe that people who have Type 2
diabetes can also benefit by keeping their blood glucose levels closer to

You can learn more about diabetes and ways to help you control your blood
sugar by calling National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP) at 1-800-438-5383.

Image of a health fair exhibit booth displaying diabetes information.
You may find that your community supports your efforts to control
your diabetes.

Keeping a Balance

Image of a turtle.

As the turtle makes steady progress, so too must those with diabetes continue
to maintain healthy lifestyles and stick to daily routines that involve regular
exercise, good nutrition, glucose monitoring, and regular visits to health care

To keep your glucose at a healthy level, you need to keep a balance between
three important things:

  • What you eat and drink.
  • How much physical activity you do.
  • What diabetes medicine you take (if your doctor has prescribed diabetes
    pills or insulin).

This book gives you only some of the facts you need. Your health care team
can give you more.

A Few Things About Food

Here are some tips for making healthy eating choices:

  • Eat regular meals. Ask your health care team to help you choose a meal
    plan. Your dietitian may suggest you eat three meals and a snack or two every
    day at about the same times. Eating every 4 to 5 hours can help control blood
  • Eat a variety of foods. Choose a variety of foods to eat so that your
    body gets the nutrition it needs. Ask your dietitian for help.
  • Eat less fat. Avoid fried foods. Foods that are baked, broiled,
    grilled, boiled, or steamed are more healthy to eat. Eat meats that have little
    fat. When you eat dairy products (cheese, milk, yogurt, and others), choose
    those that have little or no fat or cream.
  • Eat less sugar. You may find that eating less sugar helps you control
    your blood glucose level. Here are some things you can do to eat less
  • Eat more high-fiber foods, like vegetables, dried beans, fruit, and oatmeal.
  • Drink water and other drinks that have no added sugar.

Image of a batch of fruits and vegetables.
Choose to eat a variety of healthy foods, such as fruit and


Image of 2 women infront of a food market table displaying squash, beans, and cabbage.
Ask your market to carry more hearthealthy foods.

  • Eat fewer foods that have extra sugar, such as cookies, cakes, pastries,
    candy, brownies, and sugared breakfast cereals.
  • Talk with your health care team about ways to sweeten food and drinks
    without using sugar:

Eat less salt. Eating less salt may help control your blood pressure.
Here are some ways to eat less salt:

    • Use less salt when you prepare foods.
    • Cut down on processed foods, such as foods you buy in cans and jars, pickled
      foods, lunch meats (“cold cuts”), and snack foods, such as chips.
    • Taste your food first before adding salt. You may not need to add any.
    • Use herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor your food.
  • A word about drinking alcohol: Alcohol can cause health problems,
    especially for people with diabetes. It adds calories and doesn’t give your body
    any nutrition. Drinking alcohol may cause dangerous reactions with medicines you
    take. Your blood glucose can go down too low if you drink beer, wine, or liquor
    on an empty stomach. If you want to include a drink in your food plan once in a
    while, ask your health care team how to do so safely.

A Few Things About Physical Activity

Image of a man jogging.
Walking is a good way to get regular exercise.


  • It’s important to be active. Physical activity has many benefits. It
    can help you control your blood glucose and your weight. Physical activity can
    help prevent heart and blood flow problems. Many people say they feel better
    when they get regular exercise.
  • Start with a little. If you haven’t been doing any physical activity,
    talk to your health care team before you begin. Walking, working in the yard,
    and dancing are good ways to start. As you become stronger, you can add a few
    extra minutes to your physical activity. If you feel pain, slow down or stop and
    wait until it goes away. If the pain comes back, talk with your health care team
    right away.
  • Do some physical activity every day. It’s better to walk 10 or 20
    minutes each day than one hour once a week.
  • Choose an activity you enjoy. Do an activity you really like. The
    more fun it is, the more likely you will do it each day. It’s also good to
    exercise with a family member or friend.

If you’re already active now, but want to become more active, talk to your
health care team about a safe exercise plan.

A Few Things About Diabetes Medicine

Image of an insulin bottle.
Be sure you know how and when to take your diabetes medicine