Why Avoiding Diabetes Is The Key To
Long-lasting Health For Adults 50+
Article By Lisa Iannucci, CTW Features
When we reach a certain age, it’s expected that our bodies are going to change. Our eyesight starts to decline a bit and our hearing may start to go. We sleep differently and all the activity and sports we enjoyed when we were younger causes some wear and tear on our bones. For those over age 50, there is also a much higher risk for such diseases as Type 2 diabetes.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 30 million Americans have diabetes and up to 95% of them have the more common type 2, a disease that typically develops in those over age 45. The good news though is that while we can’t do much about some of the other body changes, we can take steps to prevent type 2 diabetes from tarnishing our golden years.
Understand the cause: With type 2 diabetes, cells become resistant to insulin. “Insulin is like a key that opens up our cells and allows glucose from our bloodstream to go in,” said Kathryn A. Boling, M.D., a Primary Care Provider at Mercy Personal Physicians at Lutherville, Maryland. “When the key is not working right, glucose circulates and our body changes it into energy for later and also makes belly fat.”
As a result, blood sugar levels continue to rise and high blood sugar levels are not good for your body. “It becomes a cycle — your hunger system gets turned on and makes you keep eating,” she said. “The more you eat, the higher your sugar. The higher your sugar, the more you want to eat. Over time, this gets worse.”
Understand the impact: Diabetes has an impact on your overall well-being. “It causes heart disease and cardiovascular disease and destroys the quality of your life,” said Roufia Payman, DT, CDN and nutrition counselor with Northern Dutchess Hospital in Rhinebeck, New York. “It affects your eyes, kidneys, circulation and causes neuropathy, which is weakness, numbness and pain, usually in your hands and feet.”
Understand your risks: Whether or not you are diagnosed with diabetes will depend on a variety of factors. “As you get older, your metabolism slows down and if you are overweight and eating a poor diet, have a family history of diabetes or are less physically active, you are at risk,” said Payman.
According to the American Diabetes Association, type 2 diabetes is more common in African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, and Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders, as well as the aged population.
Make some changes: If you fall into a risk category for diabetes, don’t worry. There are some changes you can make to reduce your risks and keep yourself healthier.
Lose a little weight: “Even just by losing 5-7% of your extra weight, you can reduce your chances of getting diabetes,” said Payman.
Watch your diet: How many times have you been told, “Keep eating that sugar and you’re going to get diabetes.”
“It’s not necessarily a myth, but it’s also not necessarily true, said Boling. “Some people can eat a lot of sugar, and they don’t have a genetic propensity for diabetes. Others may not be able to do that for long before they develop diabetes. The majority of us are going to be affected if we’re eating carbs that immediately spike our blood sugars. These spikes release insulin and the more insulin we release over time, the more chance there is that our body is going to become insulin resistant.”
Payman said that watching your diet is a key component to reducing your risk of diabetes. “Avoiding sweet beverages, such as fruit juices and soda, adding more vegetables to your diet, avoiding processed carbohydrates and eating more whole grains helps keep your sugar levels low,” she Payman.
Get active: Walking, hiking, biking or becoming active at least three times a week for an hour each time can help you to ward off any potential issues. “Move at least three times a week for 30 to 60 minutes each time,” said Payman.
Unfortunately, Boling said that diabetes can still rear its ugly head when you’re older even if you did everything you could to prevent it, but you should still do what you can to reduce your risks. “Maybe you were overweight, drinking a lot of soda, etc., and your diabetes would manifest in your 50s, but if you exercised, stayed at a proper weight and stayed away from certain foods, you still might get diabetes, but maybe it would be in your later 70s,” she said.
The CDC-led National Diabetes Prevention Program helps people with prediabetes make lasting lifestyle changes to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes. If you are unsure if you are at risk, visit https://www.cdc.gov/prediabetes/takethetest.
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