Navigating diabetes: Over 60s reveal their secrets to managing the condition

Nov 14, 2023
It is essential for those living with diabetes to maintain regular reviews with healthcare professionals, adhere to prescribed medications, and adopt a healthy diet and active lifestyle. Source: Getty Images.

Diabetes presents a considerable challenge for the nation’s health system, with an estimated $3 billion spent on treating diabetes nationally and 1.3 million Australians living with the condition, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

Diabetes is a chronic condition marked by high levels of glucose in the blood. It is caused either by the body’s inability to produce insulin (a hormone that keeps blood glucose levels in range) or by the body being unable to use insulin effectively, or a combination of both.

Symptoms of diabetes can include:

  • Unexplained weight gain (type 2)
  • Frequent urination
  • Feeling thirstier than usual
  • Blurred vision
  • Dizziness
  • Leg cramps

Often these symptoms can be attributed to the signs of ageing but given that almost 1 in 5 Australians aged 80-84 were living with diabetes in 2021, 30 times higher than those aged under 40, it becomes crucial for older Australians to not only be aware of the symptoms but also how to manage the condition.

Blooms The Chemist Pharmacist and Diabetes Expert Claire Ross suggests sufferers “have regular reviews with their GP and their diabetes educator.”

“Keep taking their prescribed medications and if they are having any issues with any medications, speak to their pharmacist. Maintain a healthy diet and active lifestyle. Have their GP create a team care arrangement plan so they have scheduled reviews with dieticians, exercise physiologists, podiatrists and optometrists,” she said.

While having a thorough understanding of the signs and symptoms to be on the lookout for is crucial for maintaining optimal health and well-being, given the focus of World Diabetes Day (November 14) is to raise awareness about confronting diabetes as a critical global health issue, Starts at 60 initiated its own conversation in order to share experiences and management strategies for diabetes.

Jan* was diagnosed with diabetes 12 years ago and said that “until 7 months ago despite taking meds my numbers were not good.”

“I then started a low carb diet, drink water all day long and exercise as best I can. My numbers are consistently good and my last A1C dropped 12 points. Have also lost 30lbs. I’m in UK so readings are different for me,” she said.

Elsie* swears by “no soft drink, no juice and eating fruit vegetables and no takeaway. Walking is good, diet controlled for 15 years.”

Simon* said he has “been type 2 since 2007. I have a doctor’s blood test once a year. I control type 2 by diet and exercise.”

Although some have found success in managing their diabetes with exercise and diet, for others it hasn’t been as easy.

Yvonne* revealed that diabetes has been a “miserable existence for me as I enjoy food. I love sugar and salt too.”

“Have had type 2 for about 12 years. Kept under control for 10 of those years until covid. Think stress plays a huge part too,” Yvonne said.

Erlinda* said although she was “was good at lowering it, for some reason I can’t bring it down to the level my GP wants it to be.

“She’s trying her hardest for me to manage it. I try to do the right thing. I suppose I just had to try to manage.”

The emphasis on awareness during World Diabetes Day highlights the importance of sharing experiences and seeking support. While some individuals have successfully managed their diabetes through lifestyle changes, others face ongoing struggles.

It is essential for those living with diabetes to maintain regular reviews with healthcare professionals, adhere to prescribed medications, and adopt a healthy diet and active lifestyle. By fostering a collaborative approach involving medical professionals, dieticians, exercise physiologists, podiatrists, and optometrists, individuals can effectively manage their condition and improve their overall well-being.

Remember, support is available, and reaching out to organisations like Diabetes Australia can provide additional guidance and assistance.

*last names removed for privacy

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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