“Diet” and “exercise” are typically buzzwords we’re all thinking about this time of year. After the excesses of the holidays, they are on a list of New Year’s Resolutions for almost anyone who makes one. They are also difficult resolutions for all of us to keep, but especially for seniors. Ironically, to not keep them is an even bigger health risk for people over 60.
As we get older, the risk for Type II diabetes increases. Almost 50 percent of people with Type II diabetes are older than 60. In fact, in the United States about one in four people over the age of 60 has diabetes. Many people with diabetes are unaware they have the condition and may go years before they are diagnosed. This can be especially true for seniors, whose symptoms can be less apparent, overlooked as “normal aging” or not apparent at all.
Small changes can lower the risk of Type II Diabetes. Being overweight has a big impact, but losing just 10-15 pounds can make a big difference in risk. Staying active can help to control weight and affect health for other reasons. Just a 20-minute walk after dinner can reduce blood sugar levels. Adding 30 minutes of exercise throughout the day, even if it’s only 5 or 10 minutes at a time can lower the risk of heart disease. It’s smart to consult with a physician before beginning any type of exercise program. We all know but don’t always remember that feeling our best is closely related to the food we eat.
Ensuring Your Senior Loved One Eats a Balanced Diet
Many seniors are not eating a balanced diet, no matter whether they live on their own, with family or in a senior living facility. Seniors who live alone are at increased risk because there is no one to observe their eating habits. There are many reasons why seniors are under-eating, over-eating or not eating nutritious meals. See our blog, “Why Seniors Don’t Want to Eat & What You Can Do About it.”
Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Diet
Whether your loved one is at risk for or already has Type II Diabetes, there are things both you and they, depending on their abilities, can do to ensure they return to healthy eating after over-indulging on the sweets and carbs that are so readily available during the holidays.
Master the Diabetes Plate Method: Fill a 9-inch plate with 1/2 non-starchy vegetables, 1/4th carbohydrates and 1/4th lean protein. This may eliminate the need to measure food, once mastered.
- Carbohydrates include grains, starchy vegetables, legumes and beans, fruit, yogurt & milk
- There’s a list of non-starchy vegetables here
- There are protein choices here
- Drink water or zero-calorie drinks
Make SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely. Start with one small thing. If a goal isn’t specific and measurable, it might not be understood or achievable. Too many goals are not realistic and cannot be achieved by people with certain conditions of age. Having a certain date in mind to achieve a goal or doing something at the same time every day makes it easier for a senior to understand and achieve. Here are some examples of SMART goals:
- I will cut down on and give up regular soda by 02/28/2021
- When given a choice, I will choose baked rather than fried foods
- I will add 2 vegetable servings to my meals per day by 01/31/2021
- I will keep healthy snacks on hand and only eat a diabetes-friendly snack
- I will eat no snacks at bedtime
Recognize and only eat when you are hungry. Because many seniors have a poor appetite and are not motivated to eat by smell, taste or how appetizing food looks, a parallel goal may have to be to eat on a schedule. Don’t put off eating when meal time comes around. All of us can be guilty of eating for reasons other than hunger, such as boredom, sadness, loneliness, or addictions such as sugar or chocolate. Signs of genuine hunger include:
- Stomach pangs or growling, a feeling of emptiness in the stomach
- Low energy/fatigue
- Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
Shop online and have groceries delivered. Ironically, many seniors and even active adults have switched to this method of shopping because it helps to prevent exposure to the COVID-19 virus. “Ordering groceries online can help you be more purposeful with your food choices,” says Rahaf Al Bochi, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Even if you or a home health aide does the shopping for your loved one, by shopping online you are more likely to:
- Take more time to plan healthy meals and shop from a list of needed ingredients
- Make changes to your list before you buy
- Waste less fresh food, because you only buy what you need
- Make fewer unhealthy impulse purchases
- Stick to your budget
Everyone’s body responds differently to foods and diets; there is no single magic diet for preventing or controlling diabetes. Adding activity to your daily routine can also affect the effectiveness of your diet. It is important to find the right combination of exercise, healthy foods and portion control. Family, friends and caregivers can all help to support weight loss and a nutritious diet.
Help for you and your loved ones is always available from Dakota Home Care. We can set up a consult with a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN /RD). We can also arrange for an aide who will shop for, prepare and be there for your loved one during meals. We can help him or her to focus on lifestyle modifications that promote diabetes control and better health in general. Contact Dakota Home Care today at (877) 691-0015 for a free, in-home evaluation or to learn more about our senior companion care services.
Happy New Year from your Friends at Dakota Home Care!