In 2002, the American Diabetes Association first described a condition they called prediabetes. In prediabetes, as in diabetes, the body’s ability to maintain proper blood sugar levels is impaired. However, this impairment is not as great as it is in diabetes. For that reason, a diagnosis of prediabetes offers people an opportunity to halt the process before it becomes full-blown diabetes.

Prediabetes also offers opportunities for research into how to halt this process. A study published in The Journals of Gerontology presents important evidence about the role of physical activity in preventing diabetes. Researchers examined the relationship between activity level (determined by number of steps taken each day) and blood sugar level in a group of overweight prediabetics between the ages of 60 and 85.

Just a few days of physical inactivity, defined as fewer than 1,000 steps per day, led to a significant decrease in muscle mass and strength. “Use it or lose it” applies to everyone, but especially to seniors, who can lose strength and muscle mass even after a short period of inactivity.

What is truly surprising, however, was that after just two weeks of inactivity, study participants developed symptoms of clinical diabetes. And a return to a higher level of activity did not reverse this change.

The researchers noted that clinicians should be watchful for situations in which older, overweight prediabetics are expected to be off their feet for an extended period of time, which could happen after surgery, a fall, or a number of other reasons. These people need their blood sugar managed in order to prevent diabetes. Management might include dietary changes, alternative forms of physical exercise, and perhaps even medication.

The implications of this study are significant: 23 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with diabetes, but more than 84 million have prediabetes. Preventing them from developing full-blown diabetes would be a significant public health success.

Beacon of LIFE, in Oceanport, NJ, is a government-approved PACE program that allows frail seniors — those who are certified as meeting the need for nursing home level of care— the ability to live healthy lives in their own homes.

We encourage physical activity among this frail group, offering yoga, chair exercise — and even line dancing — bolstering their physical, emotional, and cognitive health.

Beacon of LIFE maintains an interdisciplinary team of professionals who give each client the coordinated care they need. Our staff specialize in working with older people, and work with each client and their family to develop the most effective plan of care.

We provide a variety of services, including primary care, hospital care, medical specialty services, prescription drugs, nursing home care, emergency services, home care, physical therapy, occupational therapy, adult day care, recreational therapy, meals, dentistry, nutritional counseling, social services, laboratory / X-ray services, social work counseling, and transportation.

Our care and services allow people who would otherwise need to live in a nursing home to live where they want — in their own communities, in their own homes.

 

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