Seniors, Diabetes, and the Keto Lifestyle

In the United States, about one in four people over 60 has diabetes. That’s 12,000,000 folks!

Types of Diabetes

Diabetes is actually a group of diseases attributed to high blood glucose levels caused by problems in the body’s production and use of insulin.  In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas does not produce enough insulin. Folks with type 1 diabetes are given insulin through an injection or a pump. Only about 5% of adult diabetics have type 1. Most people with type 1 are children and young adults.

Type 1 Diabetes Symptoms

  • Frequent urination
  • Unusual thirst
  • Extreme hunger
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue

Type 2 Diabetes Overview

How old a person is plays a large role in the type of diabetes you may develop due to how your body handles insulin over a lifetime. Type 2 diabetes is usually diagnosed in middle-aged and older people. Seniors are at greater risk for developing diabetes due to lifelong eating and lifestyle habits that contribute to its development. Putting it simply, the longer a person has been exposed to sugar, the greater the chances of “abnormally high” blood glucose levels becoming a problem and the likelihood of type 2 diabetes coming into play.

Here is the breakdown of diabetes among seniors of various races, according to the American Diabetes Association:

American Indians/Alaskan Natives   15.1%

Non-Hispanic Blacks   12.7%

Hispanics   12.1%

Asian-Americans   8%

Non-Hispanics Whites   7.4%

Naturally, there are a wide variety of reasons why certain races develop diabetes at higher rates than others. Among these include being predisposed to having higher rates of insulin resistance, higher levels of obesity, and living in depressed neighborhoods (which has shown to expose minorities to unhealthy food options).

Patients with type 2 diabetes often have a higher chance of developing severe health issues and have higher rates of mortality from their condition than patients with type 1 diabetes. This can perhaps be partially explained by the sheer number of people who have type 2 diabetes being much higher than those with type 1.

It can also be explained by treatment plans not being followed at an older age, or just a simple lack of diagnosis. According to the the Centers of Disease Control diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure, lower limbs being amputated, and adult-onset blindness.

It has also been reported that more than 50% of patients with type 2 diabetes die from a cardiovascular disease. Additionally, more then 70% of adults with diabetes have to be treated for hypertension, a high blood pressure syndrome, that can lead to other issues with the heart. Those with type 2 diabetes are twine as likely to suffer from strokes or heart attacks as those without diabetes.

It’s also important-from the doctors’ point of view-to watch out how strictly seniors with diabetes are being treated. Seniors’ A1C levels may be around 6.5 (a level normally considered to be on the cusp of diabetic). However, it’s important seniors’ blood levels don’t drop dangerously low due to the risk of hypoglycemia, which can immediately cause more severe health effects (coma, fainting, etc.). Blood sugar levels need to be checked frequently, even if you are feeling good.

Inactivity may be a factor in developing prediabetes


I was diagnosed several years ago with prediabetes-which means that while my blood sugar was high, is wasn’t consistently high enough to be considered diabetes. What this diagnosis does means is that one needs to immediately take action to reverse it. Sadly, I did not-

The American Diabetes Association says that half of Americans 65 or older have diabetes, which means 25,000,000 seniors are at risk. That is an epic figure, given that 25% of the senior population already has diabetes. And, one is more likely to develop prediabetes if one has a family history of diabetes.

Ironically, prediabetes generally has no symptoms. It is very important that your doctor stays on top of your blood sugar levels and that one takes steps to address the lifestyle changes necessary to reverse the diagnosis.

Eating well can help you lose and maintain a healthy weight. The fact is that, losing just 5-7% of your weight can make a tremendous difference in how you feel and can lower your risk of complications. For a woman weighing 225 lbs., that means if you can lose 11-12 lbs., you’ve made a good start in improving your health ! Overall, most folks need to add more leafy green vegetables and berries to their diets to add adequately fiber to their daily intake.

Research has also show that long-term weight losers are breakfast eaters.

Generally, for  small women who are physically active, small or medium-sized women interested in weight loss, or medium-sized women who are not physically active, about 1200-1600 calories a day is sufficient.  Again, I encourage you to download Carb Manger or other app that can track intake. The simple version is free!!!

According to the author of “Belly Fat Diet for Dummies,” Erin Palinski-Wade, the best course of action for diabetics is to manage the amount of carbohydrates you eat. , if you are interested in a copy. “Although individual carbohydrate goals will vary based on age, activity level, medication, and individual insulin resistance levels, it’s imperative to avoid having too many carbohydrates in one sitting,” she says. So, you can imagine what a meal consisting of fried chicken, mashed potatoes with gravy, and mac and cheese could do to your sugar levels. Palinski-Wade recommends no more than 60 grams of carbs per meal. Of course, if you are interested in more rapid weight loss and adopt keto as a lifestyle, 60 grams could be a starting point to then decrease to 20 or under.

Fiber is important in a keto diet. It isn’t digested by the body, so fiber-rich foods with carbohydrates do not raise blood sugar levels as quickly because it is processed more slowly. Fiber-rich foods also help you feel fuller for longer, aiding weight loss, helping prevent obesity, and maybe helping to ward off conditions such as heart disease and colon cancer.

Most adults do not eat enough fiber. Women should get at least 25 grams of fiber per day, while men need at least 38 grams per day. Many folks take Metamusil daily to make certain they get this amount, and it comes in a somewhat sugar free variety.

Be wary of the condiments you use with your food. Practically all contain sugar. Read the label. Those recommended by the American Diabetes Association include Dijon or whole-grain mustard, salsa, hot sauce, or a small amount of salad dressing. Many folks use lemon juice on salads.

A preliminary research review in 2017 found that a keto plan can be beneficial to those with type 2 diabetes. The review found that that a keto plan helped adults with diabetes lower their triglyceride levels and boost “good” HDL cholesterol. It may also have mind-body benefits, as people reported they were less stressed and happier between meals.

Another review concluded that keto diets drop blood glucose levels and allow satiety.

Associated Press’ Chandice Choi wrote in a January 3, 2019, AARP publication that two major 2018 studies found that those on low-carb diets burned more calories than those on high-carb diets. David Ludwig, a lead author and researcher at Boston Children’s Hospital said the study suggests limiting carbs vould make it easier for people to keep weight off once they’ve lost it. He said the approach might work best for those with diabetes or prediabetes. Another big study found that there may be some flexibility in the ways we can lose weight. Participants in this study were encouraged to focus on minimally processed foods like produce and meat prepared at home. Everyone was advised to limit added sugar and refined flour.

Limiting processed foods could improve most diets by cutting down overall calories, while still leaving wriggle room for people’s preferences. That’s important, because for a diet to be effective, a person has to be able to stay on it.

Research studies are often contradicting and often are looking at only one aspect of a question, so be careful to not take results at face value.

It does seem relatively clear that living a keto life can jump start weight loss. The issue for most folks is remaining on it long enough to call it a way of life and reap the benefits. Long term results have not been available from research as yet, although some people have been eating ketogenically for years. Some studies suggest that, after a year, results are not as substantial.

My very own opinion is that eating low carb makes practical sense. For most Americans, the underlying issues appear to me to be not practicing portion control and pure indulgence! Moderation, folks!

It’s about choice…