Diabetes is a disease that is growing rapidly, with more Americans affected each day.
That makes Diabetes Month one of the most important ‘awareness’ months for our health and wellness.
In addition to this month’s awareness efforts, this year we mark the 75th Anniversary of the American Diabetes Association.
Spreading the word about preventing the development of diabetes in our senior loved ones, getting tested because millions are unaware of their status, and taking charge of controlling diabetes for maximum health are all vitally important.
Currently, almost 30 million people have diabetes in the United States. That’s nearly 10% of us!
86 million more have prediabetes, which could become type 2 diabetes if not controlled. More could have diabetes but are not yet diagnosed.
In 2012, 8.1 million people were undiagnosed.
Someone new is diagnosed with diabetes every 19 seconds.
Serious Concern for Family Caregivers
Seniors over 65 are a group who are affected in great numbers – almost 26%, or about 12 million, of those who have diabetes are seniors.
Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death.
Got your attention?
We found a great infographic on diabetes basis from the CDC, which you can find here.
Act Against Diabetes
The theme this year is “Eat Well, America!”
We love to eat! Eating is social activity, not just a physical or biological activity.
Eating doesn’t just fill our bellies and nourish our bodies, it also nurtures our quality of life by inviting us to savor our food with all our senses – vision, smell, taste and touch.
It can be a pleasurable experience to share a good meal with family and friends.
Eating is also the foundation of our wellness, especially surrounding diabetes care. We need a good foundation of eating to prevent or control diabetes.
Eating well for diabetes management doesn’t mean that we have to give up eating as a source of pleasure in our lives. We just have to learn to merge eating well with enjoying the food we love to achieve sustainable action.
Sometimes eating well is more than picking the ‘right’ foods that are allowed on your senior loved one’s diabetic diet.
When your senior is trying to manage diabetes or prediabetes so it doesn’t progress into something more, it is important to understand the feelings associated with eating, not just the act of eating.
Most people with diabetes should be following a healthy eating plan with a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and less sugar, fat and salt.
Eating the right foods is important for their health, even more so than typical because of their diabetes.
Eating right includes eating well, which encompasses how we approach the food we eat. Savoring it, being aware of it in a mindful way is one approach which brings together the body and the mind.
Have you ever heard about mindful eating?
Mindful eating is when you are in charge of your eating, you are present and attentive in the moment of eating. You begin to listen to what you want, how much you want, and when you want to eat staying in control.
One study found that adopting a mindful eating approach helped people with type 2 diabetes improve their health. They were able to make better food choices and even lose weight eating more appropriate portion sizes, resulting in a lower A1C.
These are key questions in becoming mindful when eating:
- Am I hungry?
- Am I sitting down to eat?
- Is this the food I desire or is it just handy? Am I eating what I like?
- Do I look at the food or smell it before tasting it?
- How does this taste to me? Do I like it?
- Am I chewing it slowly or quickly?
- Do I really want to eat or am I doing it because I’m bored, sad, lonely or tired?
- Am I eating because everyone else is doing so or am I really hungry?
- If I eat this now, do I have to change something later, such as a smaller meal or more activity? Is that particular food or meal worth it?
- Am I eating too quickly or savoring every bite, taking time to listen to the body’s fullness cues? It takes 20 minutes for the stomach to tell the brain one is full.
- Do I ever put my fork down during the meal to enjoy the company of the other diners or to slow down?
- Do i need that snack or will something else satisfy that yearning I feel?
- Am I limiting distractions such as the TV or technology devices.
Mindful About More Than Eating
And it isn’t just about eating. We can be mindful about other health behaviors that impact our seniors’ diabetes control, such as getting more physically activity, losing weight and following the medical treatment plan by testing blood sugar and taking medications.
We become the drivers of our health by understanding how the choices we mindfully make affect our diabetes control and overall health.
This requires your senior to learn about diet and other parts of their treatment plan so that they can make the best choices for themselves in the moment that presents itself.
Some research suggests that in the course of a day we make over 200 food related decisions. That is a lot of thinking to do!
Learn About the Right Foods
Understanding the foods that make up a healthy meal for someone with diabetes is an important step to health.
Each type of food contributes to our overall wellness, especially with diabetes, so it is a good idea to learn about the foods that fit, plan what you will eat, purchase the foods that fit into the plan so they are available, prepare the foods in recipes you will enjoy, and serve them in an appealing manner.
Eating right to control diabetes is something that requires thought, planning and mindfulness.
You and your senior can attend a diabetes self-management class in their area that can help everyone learn which foods fit and other topics for controlling diabetes. Ask their doctor for a referral. Learning about diabetes management is a benefit under Medicare of which too few seniors take advantage.
It is important for us all to learn how to be in charge of our blood sugar to prevent prediabetes and diabetes from ruining our quality of life.
Living with diabetes can be challenging, especially for older adults, but being informed and aware of choices can make a difference in how we choose to live.
Let’s all Eat Well to Live Well this month and all year long!