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6 ways for older adults to prevent and manage type 2 diabetes

World Diabetes Day is held on November 14, the birthday of Canadian physician Sir Frederick Banting, who co-discovered insulin along with Charles Best in 1922.

One in five Canadians aged 65 and over is living with diabetes, reports University of Calgary. Lifestyle factors that increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes with aging include consuming more saturated fats and simple sugars, and reduced physical activity, according to Diabetes Spectrum.

Fortunately, choosing an active, healthy lifestyle can significantly reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). For seniors with diabetes, a healthy lifestyle and appropriate medications are the keys to managing the disease, says PHAC.

Here are some tips to help you prevent, delay or control type 2 diabetes:

1) Be active each day. Physical activity can help lower blood sugar, blood pressure, and prediabetes and diabetes risk, says the American Diabetes Association. Walk whenever you can. Even short bouts of activity, for 10 minutes, add up, boosting your energy and endurance.

2) Eat a healthy, balanced diet. Eat healthy, nutritious meals at regular times to help your body control blood sugar levels, and healthy snacks, while limiting sugars, sweets and high-fat foods, says Diabetes Canada.

3) Maintain a healthy weight. If a person is overweight, weight loss of 5% to 10% of total body weight has been shown to significantly reduce diabetes risk, says PHAC.

4) Customize blood sugar control. Work with your diabetes care team to set individualized blood sugar targets, which balance the risks of high and low blood sugar levels. For some older adults, with physical frailty, vision or memory problems, the risks of hypoglycemia are greater than for complications from slightly higher glucose levels, says Harvard Medical School. Their goal should be the best blood sugar control that can be achieved without risking low blood sugar.

5) Prevent and treat diabetes complications. As well as managing your blood sugar, it’s important to keep blood pressure and cholesterol under control. Schedule regular physical and eye exams to check for possible signs of kidney, nerve or eye damage, or heart disease, says Mayo Clinic.

6) Take care of your feet. Diabetes can cause neuropathy, making it harder to feel a foot injury, which can quickly become infected if unnoticed and untreated. Proper foot care, including daily checks for cracks and cuts, will help keep your feet healthy, says Diabetes Canada.