Dealing with diabetes in your senior years

Each year, World Health Day serves as a timely reminder for us all to check in on our wellbeing and make sure that we are living a healthy and active lifestyle. As we age, our health and wellbeing should become a top priority to ensure that we are getting the most out of our ‘Golden Years’.

The goal of this year’s World Health Day, held on 7 April, is to raise awareness about the prevalence of diabetes and the staggering impact it has upon those affected. Professor Chris Baggoley, Australia’s Chief Medical Officer, has advised that older Australians in particular are a priority group for national action on diabetes due to their high rates of type 2 diabetes.
The good news is that there are things that can be done to prevent or delay diabetes-related problems. Taking steps towards addressing diabetes can ease symptoms and allow those affected to lead a fulfilling life outside of their diagnosis.

1. Talk to your health care providers

Professor Baggoley encourages all Australians to talk to their medical practitioner and get assessed, as early diagnosis and appropriate treatment are the best ways to avoid complications.
It’s important to ask questions about blood glucose lowering medication, lifestyle changes and diet requirements to receive professional advice on the best ways to handle and personalise the treatment methods.

2. Monitor your blood glucose levels

Diabetics are encouraged to regularly test their blood sugar levels to ensure their blood glucose readings are within a healthy target range.
Testing blood glucose requires:

  • A blood glucose meter
  • A lancet device with lancets
  • Test strips

Blood glucose meters are usually sold in kits and are available from pharmacies, Diabetes Australia, and some diabetes centers. Different types of blood glucose meters are available to suit the needs of individuals and should be selected with the advice of a healthcare professional. 

3. Create an eating plan and a physical activity plan

Healthy eating can often prove challenging as we get older due to lifestyle or appetite changes. It’s important for diabetics in particular to monitor what they eat to ensure they are nourishing their body and maintaining healthy blood glucose levels.
The NDSS and Diabetes Australia have developed a guide for older people living with diabetes. The booklet provides information about healthy eating and food choices, and you can read it here.
It is further advised that diabetics work with a dietician or nutritionist for meal planning, nutrition guidance and diet recommendations.
Maintaining physical activity goes hand in hand with a well-balanced diet. Exercise has a multitude of benefits such as supporting healthy blood glucose levels, decreasing blood pressure, increasing bone and muscle density as well as improving insulin sensitivity.

4. Connect with others

Dealing with any diagnosis can result in feelings of loneliness or isolation, and the mental effects can often be just as overwhelming as the physical ones. Seeking support from others can ease anxiety and educate not only those with diabetes, but also their family and friends.
Diabetic Connect is just one of those communities dedicated to improving the lives of those with diabetes. It is a channel for diabetics to connect with others in the same situation and learn more about their condition. See the website here.
By taking pro-active steps towards treatment, seniors who are diabetic can avoid or delay complications and continue to live a happy, healthy and active life.
Professor Chris Baggoley is Chief Medical Officer for the Australian Government and is the principal medical adviser to the Minister for Health and the Department of Health.

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