Diabetes is becoming a serious problem in Canada; almost 10% of the population has some form of the disease, while an estimated 22% have prediabetes, the symptom of which is elevated blood glucose levels. Type 1 diabetes, in which the body makes little or no insulin, accounts for only 1 in 10 cases of the disease; Type 2 diabetes, which can be prevented with lifestyle changes, accounts for about 90% of all diabetes in Canada. Seniors represent 45% of the diabetic population of the country; that’s why it’s especially important for seniors to be aware of and active in diabetes prevention.

The symptoms of Type II diabetes include unexplained weight loss, voracious thirst, chronic fatigue and increased urination. There are a variety of factors that increase your risk of developing Type II diabetes; it’s more common in people who are over 40, which is part of the reason seniors make up so much of the diabetic population. There’s a variety of physical factors that increase risk; high blood pressure, high cholesterol in the blood and being overweight will all increase the chances of developing diabetes. Genetics play a factor as well; certain ethnic groups are at higher risk of developing the disease, and if a family member is diabetic, you’re more likely to be diabetic too.

Fortunately, many of the factors which contribute to the development of diabetes can be controlled. You shouldn’t smoke; cigarettes are bad for your health all around, and smokers are more likely to develop diabetes. Eat a balanced diet; avoid foods that are high in sodium and bad cholesterol, and try to get a wide variety of nutrients; Canada’s food pyramid can help with this. Be mindful of your weight; eating right is important, but you can’t eat your way out of sluggishness, so be sure to exercise. For some seniors with mobility issues, this can be tricky, but even a short walk a day can go a long way; explore other options like swimming or tai chi as well.

TThere are a few other tips for staving off diabetes; for one, eating three meals a day at regular times can help you control your glucose levels. To the same end, avoiding sugary treats and pop; when you’re thirsty, be sure to grab yourself a glass of water. Try to opt for whole grain foods instead of the processed stuff; a golden rule of nutrition is that the less processed your foods are, the better.

For care providers, it’s important to monitor weight and diet; the development of diabetes can cause a host of health problems that are hard to manage, especially if your loved one already has mobility issues or other illnesses. Partners for Home offers personalized home care services in Winnipeg; if your loved one needs special care, including meal preparation and medication reminders, we’re here to help.