The most common type of diabetes is Type 2 diabetes. It is the result of the body having a difficult time producing enough insulin, causing blood sugar levels to rise. Type 2 diabetes affects over 30 million Americans according to the CDC. Approximately 12 million seniors have type 2 diabetes (diagnosed and undiagnosed), and this can impact their ability to live long and healthy lives in the comfort of home.
Considering the risks associated with type 2 diabetes as well as the number of people who are impacted by it, there’s value in understanding this disease as well as what steps you can take to prevent it and what you can do if you or a loved one is impacted.
Let’s explore type 2 diabetes a little further.
What is Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is a condition where your body is insulin resistant. This means that your body does not use insulin properly. Your pancreas might initially make more insulin than your body needs, and then later it simply can’t make enough to keep up with your body’s needs. Insulin is important because it is the hormone that regulates the movement of blood glucose, or sugar, into the cells. Blood glucose gives your body energy, and when your body lacks insulin or does not use insulin properly the result can be health problems including:
- Heart Disease or Stroke
- Nerve Damage
- Kidney Disease
- Foot Problems
- Eye Disease
- Infections or Sores that Do Not Heal Easily
- Dental Health Problems
- Bladder Problems
- Sleep Apnea
- Certain Types of Cancer
- Increased Risk of Alzheimer’s or Other Forms of Dementia
Risk Factors for Type 2 Diabetes
There are certain things that can make you or your loved one at greater risk of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Some people have a genetic predisposition to the disease, and this is difficult to control. However, risk factors including being overweight or obese, living a sedentary lifestyle and smoking are within your control. Women in particular also benefit by controlling their blood pressure. Research indicates that women are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes if their blood pressure rises substantially over time.
Lifestyle Changes to Prevent or Control Diabetes
Changing your lifestyle is a big step you can take toward the prevention of type 2 diabetes. Making wellness a focus and holding yourself accountable to a few simple goals can have a significant, positive impact. Steps might include getting more physically active and eating a diet that is high in fiber, whole grains and fruits and vegetables and low in saturated fat. If you are taking medications for high blood pressure, it is also important to remain consistent with your dosing schedule and follow your doctor’s orders as closely as possible.
Challenges Seniors Face
Older adults in particular sometimes have difficulty maintaining a healthy diet or safely exercising. Even standing to prepare a meal or taking a simple walk can prove challenging for the senior with balance concerns, an uneven gait or poor eyesight. Empowering these seniors to take charge of their health and prevent or control type 2 diabetes often involves ensuring that they have the right level of support. It is important to balance their needs with their desire to remain independent and develop a care plan that both provides assistance with the tasks they need help with and encouragement to do as much as they safely can on their own.
Family Support for Type 2 Diabetes
As a family member, you might step up to assist your loved one by preparing healthy heat and eat meals that they can store in their freezer for the week or offering to arrange their pill box so staying on top of medications is made easier. Visiting them regularly and accompanying them on a walk or encouraging them to exercise is also helpful. As is providing reliable transportation to medical appointments so that they can keep the lines of communication open with their doctor and work in collaboration with him to better manage their health needs.
In Home Care and Diabetes Management or Prevention
Home care is a valuable resource for seniors who are working to prevent type 2 diabetes or maintain their health after a diagnosis. This is also an excellent avenue of support for long distance caregivers who wants the reassurance that a loved one has the daily support they need to stay healthy. Tasks an in home aide might assist with include:
- Reminding a senior to take their medications or check their blood glucose levels
- Planning, shopping for and preparing healthy snacks and meals
- Providing support with balance and stability during physical activity
- Assisting with daily hygiene activities including bathing, grooming and brushing teeth
- Helping to schedule and providing transportation to medical appointments
- Picking up prescriptions or other important medical supplies
Poor management of insulin levels can result in hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia, dangerous conditions that can result in long-term or life-threatening complications. Having someone in the home who is aware of the signs of both empowers a senior to better understand how to quickly resolve mild symptoms or get immediate medical attention if symptoms are more severe.
There is currently no cure for diabetes. So, it is essential that all seniors take control of their health and make important lifestyle changes to manage or prevent type 2 diabetes. Educate yourself to better understand risk factors and signs of diabetes. Set realistic goals for lifestyle changes. Do what you can to stay healthy and remain active. If you need professional support, Salus Homecare of San Fernando Valley is always here to help. Contact us, and let’s work together to reach your goals for health and longevity.