No matter what we do, time takes an inevitable toll on our brain, muscles and organs. But certain behaviors can help us age well with diabetes and avoid disability. Find out how to prevent health issues that can slow you down before your time.
- The National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases reports the risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes are: being 45 or older; being overweight with a BMI over 25; physical inactivity; family history; ethnic background; history of insulin resistance; gestational diabetes; high cholesterol; high blood pressure of 140/90 or higher; impaired glucose tolerance; and history of cardiovascular disease. Factors such as age or ethnicity are beyond our control but other factors can be changed to minimize the effects of aging.
- Lower your cholesterol to avoid heart disease or stroke. People with diabetes are even more susceptible to these health conditions. HDL is good cholesterol which is the protective kind and LDL is bad cholesterol that causes a buildup of plaque on the walls of your arteries. Shed excess pounds, eat a healthy diet and reduce your intake of processed foods, butter and red meats that contain high levels of LDL. Sometimes genetics are to blame and you may need to take medication even with a good diet.
- Get control of your blood pressure to reduce the complications of hypertension. Reasonable blood pressure measures 130/80. Reduce blood pressure by maintaining a healthy weight and exercising daily. Cut down on salt and alcohol. Eat more vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy foods and whole grains. Think about the DASH diet. Reduce your stress which also raises blood pressure. Exercise daily.
- Lose weight to avoid problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure, sleep apnea and more. All of these chronic conditions cause rapid aging. Losing five to ten percent of your body weight can greatly improve your health. For example, people who weigh 200 pounds would lose 10 pounds to shed five percent of their body weight. Maintain a food diary, eat smaller servings and make a shopping list so you are not tempted by the wrong choices. Try eating at home as much as possible.
- Exercise regularly to build muscle mass, maintain balance and boost overall health. As people get older, we naturally lose 20 to 40 percent of our muscle mass called sarcopenia. Engage in exercise such as walking, biking or swimming four to six times per week. Start for 30 minutes then increase your exercise time to an hour. Lift light weights 3 times a week.
- Get rid of bad habits such as smoking and drinking. Smoking is linked to lung cancer, other cancers as well heart disease. Excessive use of alcohol is associated with cancers, liver cirrhosis and fluctuating blood sugar levels for people with diabetes. Quit smoking and reduce your alcohol intake.
- Maintain regular appointments with a team of health care professionals including a family doctor, endocrinologist, dentist, dietician, CDE, podiatrist, dermatologist and ophthalmologist. Go for scheduled tests including blood work. Have your teeth, feet, skin and eyes checked at least once a year. Early detection of health problems helps you age more gracefully.
- Monitor your blood sugar regularly and maintain records to show to your doctor during each visit. If you have ongoing irregularities or fluctuations, discuss them with your health care team. Keep diabetes supplies on hand at home, in the office and on the road to make regular testing easy.
- Reduce the stress in your life. Make friends, have hobbies and enjoy each day. Unwind by doing yoga, tai chi, breathing exercises or meditation. Work on the things you can control and let go of issues you have no control over.
You can age well with diabetes by making just a few basic lifestyle changes. Proper diet, regular exercise and ongoing health monitoring go a long way. Look and feel your best when you avoid bad habits and take care of yourself every day.