- Researchers say older adults can effectively manage type 2 diabetes with a healthy diet, regular exercise, and a positive attitude.
- They noted that the mental distress of managing type 2 diabetes can be a serious obstacle for older adults.
- They say society needs to incorporate the psychological toll of chronic conditions when formulating healthcare for older adults.
Researchers say people over 65 can bounce back from a type 2 diabetes diagnosis with a better lifestyle and better attitude.
That’s the conclusion found in a
In their findings, the researchers report that greater psychological resilience among type 2 diabetics is key to managing the condition.
Those who were better at meeting the challenge of a type 2 diabetes diagnosis were associated with lower body mass index, fewer hospitalizations, and better physical functioning, researchers said.
The improvements included lower self-reported disability, better physical quality of life, faster gait, greater grip strength, lower likelihood of frailty, fewer self-reported depressive symptoms, and greater mental quality of life.
Participants in the clinical trial were mostly female, averaged 72 years of age, and were followed for more than a decade. Of the 5,145 participants who were randomized in the trial, 3,199 participated in the follow-up assessment.
“Psychological resilience is associated with better physical function and [quality of life] among older adults. Results should be interpreted cautiously given the cross-sectional nature of analyses. Exploring the clinical benefits of resilience is consistent with efforts to shift the narrative on aging beyond ‘loss and decline’ to highlight opportunities to facilitate healthy aging,” the study authors wrote.
Medical professionals say type 2 diabetes is manageable at any age, but there are mitigating factors as a person gets older.
“Living a healthy lifestyle will minimize the odds of having diabetes for individuals over 65 years of age, such as a healthy diet – staying away from processed sugars and starches but eating more protein and complex carbohydrates,” Dr. Theodore Strange, the chairman of medicine at Staten Island University Hospital in New York, told Healthline.
“The chance of type 2 diabetes is higher for those overweight or inactive – exercising will assist without avoiding weight gain,” Strange said.
As far as attitude goes, Strange said the person with diabetes has to want things to get better.
“You need to want to live a healthy lifestyle so you can avoid any issues that occur with diabetes. Individuals need to practice self-care,” Strange said. “Maintaining a healthy blood sugar level can prevent or delay serious health problems.”
Dr. Ron Grifka, the chief medical officer with University of Michigan Health-West, told Healthline that, unlike people with type 1 diabetes, those with type 2 don’t usually require insulin. That can make a difference.
“These patients with type 2 diabetes have elevated glucose levels, which often can be brought in the normal range, or close to it, by lifestyle changes including exercise, diet, and medications,” Grifka said. “The cells in the pancreas that produce insulin, which may not be working well in patients with type 2 diabetes, can ‘bounce back’ under improved conditions.”
The study’s authors wrote that with a growing older population in the United States, there is “increased urgency to identify contributors to healthy aging. Investigators have focused on identifying markers of risk and/or deficits, with which to direct clinical intervention development and resource allocation.”
They wrote there’s “growing interest in fostering a positive and healthy aging experience, a more comprehensive understanding of the potential clinical benefits of psychological resilience in aging may highlight new opportunities to enhance the later years of life.”
They said it’s especially pertinent to understand the psychological effects of a chronic condition such as diabetes in older adults because of challenges in managing the disease, the risk of “multimorbidity, as well as an accelerated decline in cognitive and physical functioning.”
The study authors also said much of the existing literature on management excludes older adults.
Grifka said exercise is key for people of any age with type 2 diabetes.
“Exercise to lose weight can be very helpful to promote improved insulin production and decreased glucose levels – and also helps the cardiovascular system,” Grifka said. “A healthy diet can help control blood glucose levels too, which consists of nutrient-dense foods that are high in fiber, heart-healthy fats, beans, and lentils.
“Type 2 diabetes is a lifelong condition, but with the right care, its effects can be minimized and insulin might be avoided,” he added.