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Senior Living: What seniors should know about diabetes

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May 21, 2014 | 1,462 views | Post a comment

By Pam McGrew, R.N.

What is diabetes? In simplest terms, diabetes is a condition where there is too much glucose in your blood. Glucose is a type of sugar and a source of energy for the body. If there is not enough insulin in your system, glucose can accumulate in the bloodstream, which can cause many health problems, such as damage to blood vessels and nerves, blindness, kidney failure, heart attack, stroke, and an increased potential for amputations.

Diabetes affects approximately 25.8 million Americans, and of those, 10.9 million are elderly. These statistics clearly underscore the importance individuals of advance age becoming knowledgeable about diabetes, and well aware of its causes and symptoms.

There are two types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is caused when the body makes too little insulin, or none at all. This condition results in the need to introduce insulin through outside means, such as injection or oral medication. Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed prior to the age of 30, but can come about at any age. Type 1 is not usually hereditary, but there is a higher risk of occurrence in individuals of average body weight.

Type 2 diabetes accounts for about 90 percent of all diagnosed cases. The body may produce insulin, but there is not enough to be effective, or the body is unable to use the insulin properly. Type 2 diabetes is typically diagnosed in people over 30 years of age, and bears a clear genetic risk factor. Contributing factors include being overweight and being inactive. Type 2 increases the risk for heart attack and stroke because many diabetics also have high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

There are numerous risk factors for diabetes:

•Overweight (30 lbs or a BMI over 25)

•Family history

•Ethnic groups: Hispanic/Latino, African American, American Indian, Asian American, Pacific Islander

•Age (over 30 and overweight, or over the age of 45)

•Delivery of a large baby, or contracted gestational diabetes

•Inactive lifestyle (exercise less than 3 times a week)

•High blood pressure (140/90 or higher)

•Abnormal cholesterol (lipid) levels

Actions to take for the prevention of Type 2 Diabetes include the following:

•You should be tested by your doctor if two or more risk factors are present.

•Try to be more active (walking, dancing, gardening)

•Develop healthy eating habits

•Eat smaller portions (Use a salad plate rather than a dinner plate for a meal)

•Reduce fats in the diet

•Cook with vegetable oils (avoid lard, shortening)

•Use low fat cooking methods (broiling, baking, grilling, steaming)

•Trim the fat and skin from meats

•Eat foods that are high in fiber (fruits, raw vegetables, beans, whole grains).

As we get older, the chances of developing Type 2 diabetes can increase, as risk factors become more prominent. Being overweight and an inactive lifestyle are substantial risks, especially when combined with any other risk factors.

One should lower their risk of Type 2 diabetes by working towards a weight loss of five to seven percent (5-7 percent) of their current body weight. It is also important to speak with your doctor about testing to identify any diabetes-related issues, in order to prevent or delay the onset of diabetes. Be aware of the risk factors and warning signs of diabetes, engage in healthy living and eating, and consult with your doctor, for your healthy future.

Pam McGrew is the administrator of Connally Memorial Home Health, based in Floresville.

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