Senior Citizens Can Walk Off Meal Related Spikes in Their Blood Sugar

Elderly Couple Walking on Beach v1 - Steve Reznick, M.D.As a physician, it is extremely difficult to motivate older adults to exercise – especially those that do not like to sweat.  At the same time we are always trying to find ways to treat or prevent illness without adding additional pills, medicines or chemicals to a person’s life.  To address these concerns, Loretta DiPetro, PhD of the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services in Washington, D.C. presented data in the online journal of Diabetes Care presented from her studies on the effects of post dinner walking on blood sugar.

She followed 10 healthy but obese adult onset diabetics who were sedentary and disliked exercise.  None of the study participants were taking diabetic blood sugar altering medications. The mean age was 69 years old and all were considered Class I obese.  She asked them to take a 15 minute walk after dinner at 3 mph on a treadmill. She compared the glucose response at this speed to a 45 minute walk after breakfast or a 45 minute walk after lunch.  She followed their fasting blood sugars and post dinner glucose levels.  Her results showed that the 15 minute post dinner meal walk was the only exercise period to significantly lower the blood sugar three hours after a meal. The 15 minute walk helped improve 24 hour overall blood sugar control as well.  All the walks helped lower blood sugar but only the 15 minute post dinner walk lowered the sugar at a statistically significant level.

It is well known that exercise of the large muscle groups helps improve glucose metabolism and the body’s sensitivity and response to insulin.  We usually lower the prescribed insulin dosage of actively competing athletes before they compete because their usual dose lowers blood sugar much lower when combined with exercise. This study used that knowledge to assist older, sedentary individuals to improve their glucose control. 

 The message is simple – take a 15 minute walk after dinner. Your life depends on it.


Mediterranean Diet Improves Cognition

Grilled Fish Entree in BarcelonaDiets come and go as do recommendations for healthy living and eating. Once again the traditional Mediterranean Diet was found to be a superior way of living to a traditional low fat diet in individuals who were high risk for the development of cardiovascular disease. The study published in the May edition of the journal Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry 2013, May 13 is known as PREDIMED (Prevention with Diet Mediterranean) looked at 552 participants in a high risk population. These were men ( ages 55-80) and women ( ages 60-80) free of cardiovascular disease at study entry but high risk due to the presence of either type 2 diabetes or at least 3 of the following major risk factors: current smoking, high blood pressure, elevated lipids, obesity or strong family history of premature cardiovascular disease. The study was performed in Spain and used the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) and Clock Drawing Test (CDT) to assess cognitive function after 6.5 years of nutritional intervention. The participants were randomly divided with the researchers blinded to which group they were in. One group practiced a Mediterranean Diet with Extra Virgin Oil and mixed nuts. The other group was placed on a low fat diet generally recommended for individuals with cardiovascular disease.

At 6.5 years the practitioners of the Mediterranean diet scored significantly higher on the cognition studies. The authors concluded that an intervention with a Mediterranean dietary pattern enhanced cognition compared with a low fat diet. The authors believe that even at an advanced age and with major risk factors for cardiovascular disease, a simple lifestyle modification improved brain health.

We have seen results of studies that show that a Mediterranean style diet improves your chances of avoiding heart attacks and strokes. Now we have a study which suggests that if you follow a Mediterranean type diet you will reduce your risks of developing dementia. Isn’t it time that we start educating our citizens and patients about the benefits of such a program and how to shop, prepare and live with this type of lifestyle?