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May the fourth be with you ... Sorry, I just couldn’t help myself. Happy (early) Cinco de Mayo and Kentucky Derby Day, too! I hope you’ve gotten your tickets and will be joining us at your LifeSpan Center this Friday or Saturday to celebrate with us. I guarantee we will offer you delicious food and beverages, some laughs, and a great time.

Before we have that good time, let’s get serious for a few minutes. Nearly 29.1 million Americans and one fourth of adults over the age of 65 have diabetes, a serious disease in which blood sugar (glucose) levels are above normal. Most people with diabetes have type 2, which used to be called adult-onset diabetes. At one time, type 2 diabetes was more common in people over age 45, but now, even children have the disease.

Diabetes can lead to problems such as heart disease, stroke, vision loss, kidney disease, and nerve damage. One out of four people do not know they have diabetes. Many people don’t find out they have diabetes until they are faced with problems such as blurry vision or heart trouble. That's why you need to know if you are at risk for diabetes. This is nothing to brush to the side and ignore, folks.

The importance of managing diabetes to prevent diabetes-related health problems such as heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, vision loss, and amputation is very real. More and more people are being diagnosed with it every day. Approximately one-half of older adults have prediabetes. Scary!

And to add to the drama, many older adults may not show classic symptoms of hyperglycemia (including, but not limited to confusion, dizziness, hunger, and sweating). The extra glucose in the blood accumulates in the kidneys until the kidneys see it as an impurity to be filtered out. Common symptoms are dehydration, dry eyes, dry mouth, confusion, incontinence, and diabetes complications, such as neuropathy or nephropathy.2.

Regardless of age, diabetes is often a life-long condition and requires careful treatment. Eating better, sticking to a healthy diet that is low in sugar (including sugar from fruit) and saturated fats is the first step. It may help to see a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) who is a diabetes educator to help you create a healthy meal plan. Medicare will cover the visits every year so you wouldn’t have to pay out of pocket for the visit.

Aerobic exercise can help you control your glucose level, manage your weight, and stay strong. The American Diabetes Association recommends exercising 30 minutes each day, at least five days a week. You can split up the exercise into 10-minutes of activity three times a day. In addition, do strength training such as free weights, resistance bands, or yoga, at least two times per week. Strength training builds muscle and helps control glucose levels.

Monitoring your blood sugar levels and taking your prescribed medications correctly is also a must. Your health care team should look at all of your health issues, and help mold a plan that is individualized for you. You should see a certified diabetes educator (CDE) to learn about all the aspects of self-management that you will need to know in order to diminish your risks for the complications of diabetes.

Six month from now millions of Americans will observe National Diabetes Month. So many people suffer from this disease and it is observed every November to bring attention to diabetes and its impact on millions of Americans. It also serves as a reminder to people who may be struggling with the demands of managing diabetes that they are not alone.

Living with diabetes has its ups and downs, but healthy lifestyle choices can give you more control over them. And more control means fewer health problems down the road — and a better quality of life now.

The Coles County Council on Aging offices are located at the LifeSpan Center, 11021 E. Co. Rd. 800N, Charleston. The telephone number is 217-639-5150 for the Coles County Council on Aging and LifeSpan Center. Come join us each weekday at noon for “Lunch at LifeSpan.”

Peace Meals, sponsored by Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center, are served Monday through Friday at a suggested donation of $3.50. To register, reserve a lunch or learn more, call 217-348-1800.

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