Almost half of older adults — more than 26 million people 65 and older — have prediabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Living with prediabetes means your blood sugar levels are elevated but not enough to be considered within the type 2 diabetic range. Without serious lifestyle changes, prediabetes can turn into type 2 diabetes, a chronic health condition in which your body is unable to effectively absorb glucose for metabolism, resulting in high blood sugar. Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to an array of health complications including stroke, heart attack, kidney disease and a string of other life-threatening health issues.
The good news is that seniors can avoid diabetes with early detection of prediabetes and by making wise lifestyle changes.
Tips for Managing Prediabetes
- Manage your weight. Being obese increases your likelihood for diabetes. That said, the CDC recommends losing between 5% and 7% of your weight if you’re diagnosed with prediabetes. A combination of good eating habits, increased exercise and working with your doctor can help you find a good routine to get you on the path to a healthier lifestyle and minimize your risk for diabetes.
- Modify your eating habits. Making healthier food choices is one of the best ways to prevent diabetes. In general, a healthy eating plan for prediabetes will include a lot of non-starchy vegetables and limiting added sugars. Swap refined grains for whole grains and prioritize whole foods over highly processed foods when possible.
- Get moving. A sedentary lifestyle is also a major risk factor for both type 2 diabetes and prediabetes. Physical activity and regular exercise can help you lose weight, reduce your blood glucose levels and help manage your blood sugar. Set a goal to increase your movement most days of the week. Walking, dancing and swimming are all great options for increasing your daily activity level.
- Stop smoking. If you have been diagnosed with prediabetes and you smoke, you should consider quitting right away. Not only does smoking increase your risk for developing prediabetes and diabetes, but it can also lead to lung cancer, kidney disease and heart disease.
- Visit your doctor. Stay on top of your health with routine bloodwork and doctor visits. Regular checkups allow your doctor to look for warning signs of high blood pressure, heart disease and type 2 diabetes before it becomes a serious issue. Your doctor can suggest lifestyle changes, prescribe medications and work with you to find the best preventative measures so that you can optimize your health into your golden years.
- Ask for help. If you have been diagnosed with prediabetes, don’t be afraid to ask friends or family for help. Having a strong support network is a great way to stay committed to healthy lifestyle changes. If you live in a senior living community, ask about how the community can assist you. Many times, senior living communities can provide transportation to and from doctor’s appointments, prepare nutritious meals, help with medication management and encourage exercise programs.
Bottom line: If you have been diagnosed with prediabetes, you can take steps now to prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes. Start by supporting your body with quality food, incorporating consistent movement into your day and overcoming poor health habits, such as smoking. As a result of these healthy changes, you will feel better, have more energy and enhance your overall quality of life.