LEARNING TO MANAGE YOUR DIABETES
Diabetes is an insidious disease that preys on older people. Type 2 diabetes, once known as “adult onset diabetes,” affects 90 – 95 percent of the more than 20 million Americans affected with diabetes. While an estimated 14.6 million Americans have been diagnosed with Type 2, 6.2 million remain unaware they have the disease – while another 40 million have pre-diabetes (which can become diabetes).
People with Type 2 diabetes produce insulin; however, either their pancreas does not produce enough insulin or the body cannot use the insulin adequately. Without enough insulin, glucose (sugar) can’t get into the body’s cells. When glucose builds up in the blood instead of going into cells, the body’s cells are unable to function properly.
The incidence of diabetes increases with age, as about half of all cases of diabetes occur in people older than 55 years of age.
Here are the primary complications of diabetes:
- Heart disease and stroke. More than 65 percent of people with diabetes will die of heart disease or stroke, and they are likely to die younger than people who do not have diabetes. People with diabetes are two to four times more likely to have heart disease or suffer a stroke.
- Blindness due to diabetic retinopathy. Diabetes is the leading cause of new blindness among adults.
- Kidney disease due to diabetic nephropathy. People with diabetes who are over 65 years of age are twice as likely to be hospitalized for kidney infections compared with those without diabetes.
- Nerve disease and amputations. About 60 – 70 percent of people with diabetes have mild to severe forms of diabetic nerve damage, which can lead to lower limb amputations. Monitoring and properly managing this condition is very important.
What you can do
Learn all you can about the disease so that you can recognize warning signs that your blood sugar levels are out of balance. Signs of high blood sugar – usually due to having eaten too much, being under stress, or having too little insulin in the body – include a frequent need to urinate, nausea, extreme thirst or hunger, and blurred vision. Signs of low-blood sugar – usually due to not having eaten enough, or having exercised too much – include shaking, sweating, a fast heartbeat, anxiety, dizziness, hunger, weakness and tiredness, and irritability.
Diet and exercise are extremely important. The nutritional goal for diabetics is to attain the ABCs of diabetes. The A stands for the A1c or hemoglobin A1c test, which measures average blood sugar over the previous three months; B is for blood pressure, and C is for cholesterol. People with diabetes should attain as near as normal blood sugar control, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels.
Meanwhile, exercise can help by improving glucose tolerance – meaning that blood sugars are controlled with less medication, lowering the chance of developing serious complications from diabetes, helping the body manage stress, aiding in weight control, and decreasing one’s risk of getting diabetes in the first place.
Changing one’s lifestyle choices is also critical. Smoking, for example, increases one’s chance of developing diabetes complications in addition to increasing the risk of developing diabetes in the first place.
Diabetics usually need to regularly check their blood sugar levels at home. There are a number of devices available, and they use only a drop of blood. Self-monitoring tells how well diet, medication, and exercise are working together to control the disease. The American Diabetes Association recommends keeping blood sugar levels in the range of 80 – 120 mg/dL before meals and 100 – 140 mg/dL at bedtime.
AGING CAUSES CATARACTS
Aging is great for wine, but not when it comes to the health of your eyes. A common consequence of aging is the development of cataracts.
Many seniors are affected by cataracts that, in turn, affect their vision. Cataract surgery, where the eye’s natural lens is removed and replaced by an intraocular lens, tends to be very safe with a very high success rate. Yet, there are things that people with cataracts should be aware of.
As one ages, the eye’s lens becomes less flexible, less transparent and thicker. This results in areas of the lens becoming cloudy. If left in place, the cataract will become white and block vision. About 70 percent of people 75 and older have cataracts.
Here are some things to consider about cataracts:
- If you are over 40 get a baseline exam. Signs of eye disease begin to occur at around this age. An eye exam should be performed annually.
- Various risk factors increase the chances of cataracts. In addition to a family history, risk factors include diabetes, smoking, too much exposure to sunlight, eye injury or inflammation, and long-term use of steroids. Risks, however, can be reduced. Regardless of your age, wear UV-rated sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat when you’re in the sun for an extended period of time. If you smoke, try to quit. Proper diet and regular exercise can also help.
- Surgery is an individual decision. The adage that a cataract is ripe for surgery is no longer a valid concept. If glare, halos, blurriness and dimmed colors are complicating your ability to drive and read, surgery may be the right option for you. If it’s not affecting your lifestyle, you may want to wait.
- Those considering surgery will need to give their doctor a complete medical and eye history, including their use of medication. Certain medications can cause the iris to move out of its normal position, which can lead to complications during surgery. The surgery can still be successful, but the surgeon may need to adjust his or her surgical technique.
FUN ACTIVITIES FOR GRANDPARENTS AND GRANDCHILDREN
Maintaining close relationships with young grandchildren or great-grandchildren is important for the emotional health and well being of seniors. Here are some things to consider whether you live close or far away:
When you live nearby:
Play dress-up. Go through your closet and set aside unused clothes for pretend play – the more vintage and outlandish, the better. Add shoes, handbags and costume jewelry, too. Let your grandchild choose clothes for both of you to wear.
Do a puzzle. Pick out a jigsaw puzzle together at the store, and when it’s done, use puzzle glue to create a keepsake the child can hang on his or her bedroom wall.
Make portraits of each other. Use crayons or paints to tap into your inner artists. Display your grandchild’s artwork at your house, and let him or her take home your masterpiece.
Cook or bake together. Even very young children can follow simple directions and help mix batter or shape dough. Keep track of what you make together in a blank journal. This is a great way to pass on heirloom family recipes.
Share a special hobby. Whether you knit, collect coins, go fishing or play cards, involve your grandchild in these activities. They are a wonderful opportunity for learning.
When you live far away:
If you aren’t close enough for in-person bonding, try these easy high-tech ways to stay close to grandkids:
Try video chat. Get help setting up a webcam so you can have live video conferences with your grandchildren. It’s a fun way to connect in a more personal way instead of using the phone.
Send a DVD bedtime story. Record yourself reading your grandchild’s favorite book. They can watch it at home and read along before bed.
Start a photo scavenger hunt. Pick a theme each week, like animals, food or even a certain shape or color. You and your grandchild can take pictures (film or digital) of things relating to that theme. Then, share the images via e-mail or regular mail and collect them in a photo album. Bring the albums when you do get together so you can talk about the pictures.
WHAT’S FOR DINNER
Nutrition and proper eating becomes more important as we age. As a result, menu planning becomes an important consideration. Here are some things to consider:
- Easy to chew and swallow: Digestive processes changes with age and seniors tend to produce 30% less saliva then they did while younger. Foods that are dry can be difficult to chew and swallow. Many senior citizens wear dentures, so tough meats and raw vegetables can be difficult to chew. When planning a meal, select softer foods that are easy to eat.
- Lower in salt: Most seniors have salt restrictions to reduce the risk of water retention and high blood pressure. Cooking with low or no salt is best, while processed foods and salted meats should also be avoided.
- Make it tasty: Prescription medications can affect the flavor of foods and as we age our sense of smell and taste also changes. Foods that once were tasty may suddenly taste bland. When preparing a meal for a senior adding savory (but not spicy) seasonings will make a meal taste more flavorful.
- Use recipes with lots of nutrition: Most seniors tend to have smaller appetites which can contribute to weight loss. Instead of preparing light & lean meals, meals that are high in nutrition and calories can help a senior maintain a healthy weight.
GOOD MAINTENANCE WILL HELP YOU KEEP YOUR TEETH
Teeth are designed to last a lifetime, but tooth decay and gum disease can often get in the way. When teeth aren’t cleaned properly or often enough, plaque can form. Plaque can cause tooth decay, damaging the enamel that covers your teeth. Plaque that stays on teeth can form tartar, a hard layer that you can’t clean away by brushing.
Plaque and tartar can create a gum infection called gingivitis. People with gingivitis have red, swollen gums that bleed easily. If gingivitis isn’t treated, it can lead to a more serious gum infection called periodontitis. Over time, periodontitis can loosen teeth, and a dentist may have to remove out. Dental problems can also result from taking certain medications, having diabetes, having dry mouth, eating poorly or not seeing a dentist regularly.
Here are steps to help keep teeth and gums healthy at any age:
- Brush your teeth twice a day. Use a soft-bristle brush and fluoride toothpaste.
- Floss between your teeth once a day.
- See the dentist at least twice a year for a checkup and cleaning.
- Eat a balanced diet and avoid sugary drinks.
- Stay away from cigarettes and chewing tobacco.
If holding a toothbrush is a problem, try putting a wide rubber band around your hand and the brush to hold them together. You can lengthen the handle of the toothbrush by attaching a long piece of plastic or wood to it, or you can make the handle bigger by taping it to a small ball or a sponge. Try using an electric toothbrush.
If you have missing or loose teeth, a dentist can fit you with dentures or put in dental implants. Mouth sores; lumps or rough spots; pain or numbness; or difficulty moving your jaw or tongue could be warning signs of oral cancer, which is why regular visits to the dentist are critical.
THE BENEFITS OF A PET
Having a pet at home may be just what the doctor ordered.
A three-year study at the Baker Medical Research Institute in Melbourne, Australia showed that pet owners were healthier than non-owners. This finding could not be explained by such personal differences as cigarette smoking, diet, weight, or socio-economic profile.
Pet owners were found to have significantly lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels, as well as lower systolic blood pressure readings than non-pet owners. When examining the results, researchers could not find any other factors other than pet ownership that influenced the outcome. Pet owners reported they were more active, but they also drank more alcohol and ate more take-out food.
FAMOUS MOVIE LINES
Match the movie character with his or her famous line.
- Norman Bates
- Vito Corleone
- Dorothy Gale
- Rhett Butler
- Forrest Gump
- Rick Blaine
- Harry Callahan
- Terry Malloy
- Mama always said, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”
- Toto, I’ve got a feeling we’re not in Kansas any more.
- Louie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
- Go ahead, make my day.
- A boy’s best friend is his mother.
- I’m going to make an offer he can’t refuse.
- Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.
- I coulda had class. I could have been a contender. I coulda been someone. Instead I’m a bum.
A-5, B-6, C-2, D-7, E-1, F-3, G-4, H-8