Active Seniors Special Section: Staying healthy with Type 2 diabetes

Published on Wed, Jul 18, 2012 by Kelly Sullivan

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Blaine residents exercise at the Blaine Senior Center – one of the ways to be healthy and avoid Type 2 diabetes, a common affliction among seniors in the U.S. Photo by Kelly Sullivan.

Vickie Blacklidge’s one downfall is dark chocolate. Even after being a Type 2 diabetic for 10 years, she still can’t resist it.

She is one of 10.9 million people over 65 living with diabetes in the U.S., according to the American Diabetes Association. Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure and blindness in adults and the seventh leading cause of heart disease and stroke.

Blacklidge is a regular volunteer at the Blaine Senior Center. She and her husband got started there to take advantage of the classes and activities the center offers. For her, this means resources that can help her stay healthy with diabetes, such as taking exercise classes and eating balanced meals.

The meals at the senior center are nutritious, with plenty of vegetables, salad and fruit for dessert. While they are a balanced diet for anyone, they are basically perfect meals for diabetics, Blacklidge said.

Guest speakers come twice a week during lunch to provide tips on staying healthy. Exercise classes include tai chi, strength training and stretching.

Cindy Brinn, registered dietitian and manager of the nutrition and diabetes clinic at PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center, said Type 2 diabetes is the equivalent to smoking in terms of cardiovascular risks.

Controlling your weight directly correlates to controlling or reversing diabetic symptoms, Brinn said.

She recommends reducing your intake of refined sugars and flour-based foods, such as white bread and bagels. They are not satisfying because of how fast they metabolize, so people are hungry after a couple of hours.

Eating sprouted wheat or steel-cut oats in the morning, an egg and an apple will get you to lunch, Brinn said, adding that 80 percent of your diet should include non-processed foods.

“When it comes to exercise, do something fun, such as a taking a class with friends,” Brinn said. “Even walking 30 minutes a day will drastically improve your health.”

Blacklidge said she recently met a man with severe diabetes who, by eating right and exercising, had been able to get completely off his diabetes medication.

“He’s obviously doing something right,” Blacklidge said. While she said she should go more often, the strength training class at the center is a great way for her to work out.

Blacklidge said she is lucky in that she doesn’t have extreme sugar highs or lows, but she still monitors her levels constantly. Going to the doctor to monitor her symptoms, eating right and exercising is key to staying healthy with diabetes.