Preventing and Treating Diabetes

by Beth Lueders

One in every two people in the world with diabetes is undiagnosed. Every six seconds another person around the globe dies from this chronic disease of high blood sugar (glucose) levels. Are you at risk to be one of them?

Caregiver and older woman

The International Diabetes Federation (IDF), which oversees diabetes associations in 170 countries and territories, reports that approximately 415 million adults worldwide are diabetic. Global diabetes is expected to rise to a staggering 642 million by 2040. To help with diabetes awareness, prevention and advocacy, the IDF sponsors the annual World Diabetes Day on 14 November. The 2017 theme is “Women and Diabetes: our right to a healthy future.”

The IDF finds that 1 in 10 women live with diabetes and many of these women lack access to diabetes self-management education, treatment and care. One in seven women globally are affected with gestational diabetes and in 2015 this totaled almost 21 million live births. Pregnant women need improved diabetes screening and treatment protocols to protect their health and the health of their babies.

Diabetes is classified as Type 1, Type 2 and gestational. In Type 1 diabetes, the body’s pancreas fails to produce adequate insulin hormone. People with Type 2 diabetes do not effectively use the insulin their pancreas produces. A significant number of women with too much sugar in their blood during pregnancy will later develop Type 2 diabetes. Diabetes can lead to blindness, kidney failure, cardiovascular conditions and the amputation of lower limbs.

Symptoms of Diabetes

World Diabetes Day is a call for people of all ages to be aware of common symptoms of diabetes, although Type 2 may present with minimal or no symptoms at all. If there is a family history of diabetes or you are a senior, pay close attention to the following changes in health:

  • Increased urinary frequency
  • Heightened thirst or hunger
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Blurred vision
  • Fatigue
  • Numbness in hands and/or feet
  • Pain in feet
  • Significant or recurrent infections

Getting regular physical exercise and maintaining a healthy weight are beneficial in preventing or delaying diabetes. If diabetes is detected, lowering blood glucose can decrease the need for diabetes pills or insulin injections.

Food and Fitness Tips for Diabetics

Proper food and fitness are key to sustaining healthful glucose levels. Living with diabetes can be challenging in the day to day and the following are ways to better manage the disease.

  • Make sure you eat at regular intervals, especially if you take insulin medications.
  • Fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables.
  • Choose from a low-sugar variety of these diabetic super foods:
  • Fish high in omega-3
  • Milk and yogurt
  • Whole grains
  • Beans
  • Dark green, leafy vegetables
  • Berries
  • Learn how physical activity affects your blood sugar from going to high or too low.
  • Check your blood glucose before, during and after exercise.
  • Always carry a sugar-boosting carbohydrate food or drink with you such as juice or glucose tabs.

Diabetics and those prone to the disease should stay current with their healthcare team on checking blood sugar levels. Right at Home elder care professionals can assist with meal planning, cooking, exercising and monitoring insulin medications for diabetic older adults and adults with disabilities.

How has diabetes affected an elder relative or friend?