Maintaining your health as you age is essential, especially for people with diabetes. People with diabetes are at a higher risk of heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and other complications. Still, you can lower these risks by managing your disease and maintaining a lifestyle. Not sure where to get started? Use this list of tips for managing diabetes in old age.
Table of Contents
1. Eat a Healthy, Low-Sugar Diet
Having diabetes means your blood glucose levels are too high. You can combat that by eating less sugar and carbohydrates. These break down into glucose in the blood, raising your levels even higher. In general, it’s a good idea to avoid:
- Ice cream
- White Rice
- White Bread
- Other foods high in saturated or trans fats
So what can you eat? Try to eat a balanced diet from the major food groups. This includes a variety of:
- Nonfat or low-fat dairy
- Whole grains
- Fruits and vegetables
- Healthy fats such as olive oil
Also, plan out regular meals at about the same time every day. This can help you better manage your blood sugar and know what to expect with your insulin injections.
2. Get Regular Exercise
Research shows that being more active can help your body respond better to insulin. And even more importantly, exercising can help lower your risk of nerve damage and heart disease.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week. That does not mean you have to do intense cardio. Moderate-intensity physical activity can involve simple things like:
- Going for a fast walk
- Cleaning the house
- Mowing the lawn
If you need motivation to exercise, invite a partner with you. Choosing a goal to accomplish can also be helpful, especially if you reward yourself for finishing.
3. Pay Attention to Your Feet
Unfortunately, it’s common for people with diabetes to develop nerve damage in their feet. While this can lead to tingling or pain, many people find their feet numb over time. If you lose sensation in your feet, you cannot tell if you have an ulcer or cut. People with diabetes cannot always heal well, and if your wound goes untreated for a while, it may result in the need for amputation.
You can avoid this by carefully monitoring your feet daily. Inspect your toes, soles, and ankles for any redness, swelling, blisters, cracks, or cuts. If you notice an issue, report it to your doctor right away.
4. Monitor Your Hearing and Vision
Nerve damage is not exclusive to your feet; it can also damage your ears. Once your hearing starts to go, this loss is permanent. Get your hearing checked yearly by your provider to assess hearing loss progress. Also, try to avoid loud concerts and other noises, as these can damage your ears, too.
Diabetes can also damage the retina, the part of your eye that takes in light. This condition is called diabetic retinopathy. Again, see your optometrist every year so they can keep tabs on your vision. Treatments are available to prevent vision loss, including laser therapy and medication.
5. Check Your Glucose Levels Frequently
Checking your glucose levels was probably the first thing you learned after being diagnosed with diabetes. It’s important not to slack on this process. While it might be cumbersome to interrupt your life several times a day to pull out the testing strips, checking your blood sugar is how you track your progress.
Depending on the type of diabetes you have and your doctor’s recommendations, you may need to test anywhere from 4 to 10 times a day. Build these tests into your schedule (perhaps with a phone alarm) so you do not feel like they’re a significant distraction.
6. Use Medicare to Cover Diabetic Supply Costs
Getting older brings many challenges with it, but one of the benefits is becoming eligible for Medicare. Luckily, Medicare does cover the cost of common diabetic supplies. For example, Medicare Part D covers injectable and inhaled insulin and the needles, swabs, syringes, and gauze you may need to dispense them. You can also get coverage for external insulin pumps, blood sugar test strips, and glucose testing monitors under Medicare Part B.
While you do have to pay your deductible before you can receive coverage ($226 in 2023), after that, you pay 20% of the cost. It’s far more affordable than paying for everything on your own.
7. Take Your Medications as Prescribed
Doctors commonly prescribe medications to treat type 2 diabetes. It’s crucial to make sure you take these pills as scheduled. Try not to miss a dose; this can get your body out of whack and mess up your blood sugar levels.
To help you remember, start using a pill box to keep your medications organized. You might also set an alarm to remind you to take your pills at a certain time. Or, take your pills after a certain time of day so you do not forget, like after eating breakfast.
8. Get Vaccinated
When you have diabetes, your immune system does not work as well as it should. Because of that, doctors recommend you get common vaccinations. These can help you fight off viruses and bacteria so you do not get sick. In particular, consider getting:
- The influenza (flu) vaccine once a year
- The Tdap vaccine every ten years
- The zoster vaccine if you’re 50 or older
- The pneumococcal vaccine once before age 65 and then two more times after 65
- The hepatitis B vaccine if you’re younger than 60
- The COVID-19 vaccine and regular boosters
Keep Your Diabetes in Check as You Age
Aging with diabetes does not mean you have to let it rule your life. By following the above tips for a healthy lifestyle, you can improve your health prospects and work to keep diabetes-related side effects at bay. For even more help, talk with your doctor for more personalized recommendations on managing your diabetes.