According to the Diabetes Association, about 1 in 4 people over the age of 60 have diabetes. It is estimated that by 2025, two-thirds of people diagnosed with diabetes will be age 60 or older. Along with diabetes, seniors are more at risk for conditions such as hypertension and cardiovascular disease, all which can affect a person’s nutrition.
The two most common diabetes-related emergencies among the elderly are hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia.
Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, occurs when a senior misses a meal or snack, and can result in confusion, lack of motor coordination, stomach pain, headache, or even unconsciousness. If your aging loved one is displaying signs of hypoglycemia, they need to ingest a form of sugar immediately, like juice or soda that can be easily absorbed.
On the other hand, hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar, can occur from overeating and lack of exercise. The symptoms of hyperglycemia can be similar to hypoglycemia in that your loved one may appear confused or agitated. They may also be easily fatigued, have increased thirst or need to use the restroom often.
Diabetes is also more common in the elderly not only because they may live a more sedentary lifestyle, but also because depression, dementia or other cognitive issues may cause them to be forgetful. They may skip meals or forget to take their necessary medications. Plus, due to the fixed income many seniors are on, they may not be able to fill their prescriptions as often as they should.
Maintaining a healthy diet plan for diabetes is vital. There is no actual “diabetes diet,” but your loved one can talk to a doctor or dietician to learn how to eat and stick to a healthy diet. Making smart food choices can become easy when you know what types of food are best- and eating healthy is good for everyone, not just those with diabetes!
Recommended Diet for Diabetes
- Manage carbohydrates. It’s important to manage the amount of carbohydrates in your diet if you have diabetes, because carbs have the most impact on blood sugar levels. Stick with whole grains like brown rice and oatmeal. Besides whole grains, the healthiest carbohydrates are found in fruits, vegetables, legumes and low-fat dairy products.
- Choose fiber. You can get fiber from whole grains and fruits and veggies as well, and along with helping control blood sugar levels, fiber also helps decrease the risk of heart disease.
- Stock up on protein-rich foods. Foods like fish, skinless chicken and non-fat dairy products and legumes help avoid weight-loss in diabetics.
As part of a healthy diet for diabetes, avoiding saturated and trans fats and foods with high cholesterol and sodium is also important, as well as knowing how many calories to consume on a daily basis. Don’t allow your loved one to skip meals, and make sure they are maintaining their medications and taking them at the same time each day.
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