What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is the result of high blood sugar, and “sugar” is used synonymously with “glucose”. See, sugar/glucose provides your body with energy – remember “sugar highs?” – and that glucose is received from the kinds of food you eat. However, in order to get that blood sugar to your cells (to power them with energy), insulin must help traffic them.
The problem is, insulin is a chemical hormone, so when there’s an imbalance or improper creation of insulin, then the glucose is unable to reach the cells. This causes all of that sugar (glucose) to simply stay in the blood. That’s when it causes diabetes – when your body doesn’t know what to do with all the sugar in your system.
Over 25 million people in the U.S. alone (according to the CDC) suffer from diabetes and 90% of them are diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes.
Type 2 Diabetes
People can contract Type 2 Diabetes at any age, but the risk increases significantly the older we get. This is why it’s so devastatingly important to watch for it in seniors. Diabetes can significantly change your lifestyle and many seniors are enmeshed in routine, so the sudden change to diet, health, and lifestyle is hard!
Type 2 Diabetes occurs when the body is unable to use insulin properly. The pancreas (the organ that produces insulin) will produce more to compensate, but gradually finds that it cannot keep up production.
The scary part about Type 2 Diabetes is that many won’t ever know they’re experiencing symptoms. People have been diagnosed without any of the known indicators – however, this is more uncommon.
The primary symptoms are excessive thirst, hunger, and fatigue, in addition to potentially tingling sensations or blurred eyesight.
If gone unchecked or treated, Diabetes can lead to blindness, irreparable damage to the eyes, nerves, and kidneys, or even lead to amputation and death.
People with diabetes are more likely to suffer from heart disease and stroke as well, so it’s important to watch!
Treating Type 2 Diabetes and Seniors
Generally, seniors are prescribed the same treatment when it comes to Type 2 Diabetes, and that’s proper diet and exercise.
Exercise is extremely helpful for people with diabetes because even though the pancreas makes most of our insulin, our liver and muscles make their own as well. As a result, when you exercise, you encourage your liver and muscles to absorb the excess glucose floating around in your blood.
As for diet, that one gets a little trickier, but well within every senior’s control. Protein-rich foods and antioxidants are essential to healthy diabetes living. Eggs, fish, nuts and yogurt are three essentials for protein that won’t have an adverse effect on seniors.
In addition, berries and vegetables are useful; the former containing antioxidants and the latter providing fiber and low-calories (though avoid any veggies that are too starchy).
Also, olive oil doesn’t hurt – in fact, it contains over 25 antioxidants – so be sure to include it with your dinner!