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How Seniors Can Prevent and Reverse Diabetes

Each November duringNational Diabetes Month, we shine a spotlight on diabetes and pre diabetes to raise awareness and illustrate the impact of these conditions on more than one in three Americans. At Vinson Hall Retirement Community, we are particularly attuned to the risk of Type 2 diabetes in seniors. What are some early signs of diabetes in seniors? What lifestyle habits can help prevent diabetes? Can diabetes be reversed? Most importantly, what should older adults be thinking about with regard to diet and exercise to ensure they have a healthy and enjoyable retirement?

What Is Diabetes?

Diabetes refers to a health condition related to how your body creates energy from the food you eat.When you consume glucose—or sugar—your body breaks it down and releases it into your bloodstream. From there, your pancreas releases a chemical called insulin to help your cells absorb the glucose, like a key opening a door. In healthy bodies, your cells absorb the glucose and use it for energy.

People with diabetes cannot produce enough insulin, so the glucose sits in your bloodstream unused. Sugar molecules pile up outside the cells, and over time, this condition can lead to heart disease, kidney malfunction, vision loss and other maladies.

There are two types of diabetes:Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1 diabetes — 5 to 10 percent of diabetes cases, according to the CDC — is usually diagnosed in children and young adults. This is an autoimmune condition in which the body attacks itself, which prevents the production of insulin. There is no known way to prevent Type 1 diabetes. 

Type 2 diabetes is heavily correlated to lifestyle, specifically unhealthy eating and lack of exercise.With Type 2 diabetes, your body doesn’t use insulin efficiently, so your blood sugar levels become elevated. Type 2 diabetes often develops later in life. To extend the key analogy, Type 1 diabetes is like not having the insulin key to open the door to your cells. Type 2 is like having a key that is broken or rusty.

Pre diabetes is a condition in which blood sugar levels are elevated but not high enough to be classified as full-blown diabetes. However, left untreated and with no lifestyle modifications, pre diabetes often transitions into Type 2 diabetes.

Lifestyle Is Key to Preventing Type 2 Diabetes

While there is no known way to prevent Type 1 diabetes, lifestyle changes can prevent and possibly reverse Type 2 diabetes. These lifestyle changes include:

  • Losing weight
  • Eating healthy food
  • Being active

These three steps work hand in hand. When you increase your daily activity—even if it is just by walking a few miles a day—you strengthen your heart and are on the right track to shed a few extra pounds. Likewise, eating a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables as well as whole grains and lean protein will help you naturally regulate your blood sugar levels and balance your metabolism.

While there is no cure to get rid of diabetes once it develops, losing weight and taking active lifestyle steps can slow the course of the disease and lower your risks of heart disease, stroke and diabetic attacks. Because Type 2 diabetes tends to develop overtime, diabetes in seniors is a major health concern. That’s why it is so important for older adults to eat well and exercise regularly.

Schedule an annual physical that includes blood work to check your blood sugar levels, H1C numbers and other biomarkers. These indicators can diagnose pre diabetes and allow you to make lifestyle changes before Type 2 diabetes develops.

4 Tips from Vinson Hall Retirement Community to Prevent Diabetes

At Vinson Hall RetirementCommunity, the health and wellness of our residents is a top priority. Our campus nurses, fitness trainers and dietitians are always ready to share tips and tricks for improving your health, including strategies for the prevention of diabetes. To develop a healthy lifestyle, here are four recommendations from our team:

  • Start small. Making changes in your lifestyle and daily habits can be hard, but you don’t have to change everything at once. It is okay to start small. Consider trying oatmeal for breakfast a couple of times a week, or add an omega-3-rich fish for dinner one night.
  • Setbacks are normal. Building new healthy habits require rewiring your brain, which doesn’t happen overnight. You might take two steps forward, one step back. It may be easier to measure your progress weekly rather than daily. That way, if you indulge in some extra sweets one day, but overall have a good week, you’ll be motivated to keep going.
  • Move more. Possibly the best thing you can do for your health is to get plenty of exercise. Aim for 30 minutes of physical activity, five days a week. You can start slowly by breaking up your exercise time throughout the day. Look into your local fitness center to see if they offer yoga or strength-training classes. Trying something new can make exercise fun!
  • Make it a challenge. Commit to one week. Or two. Or a month. Choose a time period that sounds reasonable, and commit to doing something for a certain number of days, such as walking a mile a day for two weeks. Pretty soon you will find you have created a habit for yourself, and you’ll be on your way!

Activate Your Dimensions of Wellness

Because maintaining our health is so important as we age, everyone at VHRC works hard to support our residents in every dimension of wellness: body, mind and spirit. When it comes to helping our seniors prevent or manage diabetes, we offer amenities ranging from healthy meals in our campus restaurants to wellness classes in our fitness center.

The ability to stay active is crucial for successful aging. Our fitness center is staffed by certified trainers who are dedicated to your wellness. Here, you find everything you need to improve strength, stamina, balance and flexibility — those aspects of good health that we tend to lose in later years. With regular exercise sessions, classes and a mindset of good health, you can stay active and enjoy every moment of your retirement!

Meanwhile, when you’re ready to let someone else do the cooking, we offer healthy meals in several great dining venues, including our Penthouse Dining Room (classic lunch and dinner fare with heart-healthy salads and grilled options) and Fred Johnson’sBistro (casual dinner menus with a mix of fan favorites and delicious rotations).

To engage your spirit and your intellect, our community also offers a robust selection of stimulating programs on campus. Classes, lectures, clubs, and social get-togethers offer new and exciting opportunities to help you stay active, motivated and engaged, feeding your soul.

Join Us for a Tour

With all of these amenities and this focus on activity and engagement, we are here to help you stay healthy to prevent diabetes, heart disease and other maladies. To learn more about how we support residents in all the dimensions of wellness and how the lifestyle here supports diabetes preventions, contact us for a consultation or tour. Once you see our beautiful campus, you are sure to fall in love. We absolutely cannot wait to meet you and show you around!


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