March is National Nutrition month and this year’s theme is Go Further with Food. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is also reaching out to seniors and has posted several articles based on studies that are especially relevant for healthy nutrition for seniors to prevent disease. Combating chronic diseases shows how seniors can take steps to prevent getting a disease like diabetes by lifestyle changes that lead to getting more exercise, losing weight and following good nutritious eating habits.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that in 2017 there were 30.3 million Americans with diabetes (9.4% of the US population) which is 1 in 10 of all adult Americans. There were also 7.2 million people who had diabetes that had not been diagnosed. The CDC report also shows that there were 84.1 million adults over age 18 who had prediabetes (1 out of every 3 adults). Of those who had prediabetes there were 23.1 million seniors over the age of 65. Diabetes was the 7th major cause of death in 2015. By 2025, if things continue as they are, 1 in every 5 adult Americans will have diabetes.
Seniors with Prediabetes
Most seniors with prediabetes will eventually get Type 2 Diabetes unless they make serious lifestyle changes. Seniors with prediabetes have blood sugar levels which are slightly higher than normal, but have not yet reached the level to be confirmed as diabetes. Contracting Type 2 diabetes will put these seniors at high risk for strokes and heart attacks, blindness due to destruction of the retina of the eyes, amputation of legs, feet and toes, nerve damage and kidney failure.
The National Diabetes Prevention Program
The CDC is on a campaign, the National Diabetes Prevention Program, to try to reach as many prediabetic people as possible and to show them how they can avoid getting diabetes by making important lifestyle changes.
First of all, seniors over the age of 65 should all be tested for glucose. Many do not even know they have diabetes or prediabetes until it shows up in a blood test.
Several studies show that the Mediterranean Diet lowers blood glucose levels better than a low fat diet and that it lowers the risk for getting diabetes by 83%. The Mediterranean Diet is high in fresh fruits and vegetables with more fish and less meat. The main component of the Mediterranean Diet is to use only extra-virgin olive oil as the sole and main oil and fat and to avoid trans fats like margarine.
More Dietary Tips
It is a fact that cutting back or cutting out sugar can prevent going from prediabetes to diabetes.
Eat lighter meals more often rather than very heavy meals.
Eat whole grain breads rather than white bread.
Eat whole brown, red or black rice instead of white rice.
Eat lots of green and yellow vegetables and fresh fruits.
Avoid alcoholic beverages. Substitute grape juice for wine.
Eat less meat and more fish, especially salmon.
Herbs with Glucose Lowering Properties
Some herbs and supplements have been shown to have glucose lowering properties, but these should be taken only on the advice of a physician knowledgeable in herbal medicine. Even though they can be bought over-the-counter, herbs are powerful drugs and many of them also have dangerous side effects and interactions with other drugs, foods and herbs.
With a doctor’s referral, Medicare B covers the cost of going to a professional dietician who can guide seniors with prediabetes to the proper eating habits.
CDC Lifestyle Change Programs
It is possible to join a CDC lifestyle change program which can help prevent a senior with prediabetes from going on to becoming a full-blown diabetic. The lifestyle change program is for a full year led by a specially trained coach who will guide seniors to better eating habits, getting more exercise and dealing with stress. A senior can also join an online lifestyle program.
Diabetes is a chronic disease that can lead to early death, blindness and amputation of limbs. The good news is that with early detection for prediabetes and by doing some lifestyle changes this terrible disease can be stopped in its tracks. It is imperative for every senior to get a simple blood test for diagnosing diabetes or prediabetes.