What is diabetes?
Type 2 diabetics have what is called insulin resistance. When you eat, your body produces blood glucose that your muscles, liver, and fat use for energy. As your glucose levels rise, a hormone called insulin helps lower your sugar to stable levels. When your body keeps producing high levels of glucose, your pancreas will naturally increase its insulin production. Insulin resistance happens when your muscles, liver, and fat start to get glucose from your blood inefficiently. To get more glucose from the blood, your pancreas must make enough insulin. Your blood sugar and insulin will keep one-upping each other to the point that your body can no longer manage your blood sugar levels.
What are the health complications and risks associated with diabetes?
Having this disorder is no walk in the park as there are severe health complications and a number of diseases linked to diabetes.
- The risks of having heart disease and stroke double among diabetics because they typically have lower HDL (good cholesterol), raised LDL (bad cholesterol), and higher triglycerides (a type of blood fat).
- With higher blood sugar, diabetics are also at risk for often painful nerve damage and chronic kidney disease which can be fatal if left untreated.
- Common colds, wounds, and infections are also more difficult to fight because of immune dysfunctions that occur alongside hyperglycemia. It’s why diabetics are considered a high-risk population for Covid infections. The health risks are more significant for aging diabetics.
Thankfully, when you’re equipped with diabetes awareness, regular consultations, and maintenance pills, your prognosis greatly improves and you can live with minimal symptoms up to a point. As a senior diagnosed with diabetes, you may experience aggravated symptoms including disabling nerve damage especially if your disease is poorly managed. If you’re itching to see some kind of improvement in your overall health, you should seriously consider regular exercise and dieting.
Malnutrition among older adults with diabetes
Many people find dieting elusive but it doesn’t have to be. The first step to a proper diet is doing your groceries right. The next step is to motivate yourself to try healthy, easy, and delectable meals that not only respond to your diabetic food restrictions but also to your aging needs. Several studies show that the prevalence of malnutrition among older adults with diabetes is greater than 50%. The Mini Nutritional Assessment (MNA) determines that older adults with diabetes have a higher risk of undernutrition than older adults without.
According to research on nutrition requirements for older adults with diabetes, insulin resistance, chronic inflammation, malnutrition, and decreased physical activity are closely linked to frailty and cognitive impairment or dementia among aging patients. Thus, you must follow several guidelines on energy intake, proteins, vitamins D, C, and E, and fatty acids (like omega-3). Many medical practitioners and researchers champion the Mediterranean diet (MD) because it has always been associated to longevity and slowed musculoskeletal and cognitive decline among older adults.
If you want to be meticulous with your diet, you may refer to the guidelines below but this is in no way professional medical advice. Macro/micronutrient recommendations are controversial in the medical field as they are not always better for all patients. Talk to your doctor first before making significant changes to your current diet.
|Energy and Macro/Micronutrients||Health Authority||Guideline|
|Energy Intake||European Society of Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism||30 kcal/kg body weight/day*|
|Proteins||European Society of Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism||1.2–1.5 g/kg body weight/day*|
*Additional recommendations needed for individual adjustments
The Mediterranean Diet for Diabetic Seniors
The best thing about MD is that no food is forbidden, but there is an emphasis on STRONG ADHERENCE to MD which means you must consistently eat more whole foods rather than processed food long-term to see a difference in your overall health. The MD can greatly benefit you (and frankly, everyone) because of its generous amounts of fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids can improve your lipid profile and insulin sensitivity while greatly reducing cardiovascular risks and inflammation. Additionally, the nutrients found in MD such as flavonoids, carotenes, folates, Vitamin B12 and Vitamin E produce a protective effect on the brain.
As a beginner, you can take note of this Mediterranean Diet Pyramid:
For your next grocery trip, you can put this pyramid to use!
- Fruits and vegetables
- Whole grains (pasta, rice)
- Nuts, legumes, and seeds
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Herbs and spices
- Seafood (shellfish, fish)
- Poultry (chicken, eggs)
- Dairy (yogurt, full-fat milk, cheese)
- Sugary beverages and snacks
- Processed foods
- Red meat