In Water Valley and elsewhere in this country, we could probably all do with a little less sugar consumption. Whole volumes have been written about the dire effects that sugar can have on the body, causing all kinds of issues with too much glucose in the bloodstream, too many calories accumulating, and the body’s tendency to gain unhealthy amounts of weight. Senior home care professionals are aware of the negative effects that excessive sugar consumption can have on an older adult, and they sometimes have to deal with a senior’s sweet tooth in order to help them avoid all these negative effects. In this article, we’ll discuss the effect that sugar has on aging and what you need to know to avoid the pitfalls of excess sugar intake for your senior loved one.
Sugar and aging
There are a number of ways that added sugar can negatively affect the aging process. Science tells us that there is a direct connection between high sugar intake and diabetes, high blood pressure, the risk of strokes, and even cancer. It can increase the level of glucose in the bloodstream, adds more insulin to the blood, causes inflammation around the body, increases oxidative stress, causes hormonal imbalances, and even causes DNA damage. It might be hard to believe that something so sweet and enjoyable could cause all that harm to the body – but it does.
When sugar mixes with fat and proteins
New molecules are formed in the body when sugar mixes with fat or proteins, and these new molecules build up quickly in the muscles and in plasma. When a person has too much sugar intake, these molecules form and accumulate too quickly to be managed effectively by the body. Instead, they tend to pile up and age a person – both inside and out. Externally, they cause your skin to become saggy and droop in an unhealthy manner. Internally, they degrade nearby cells and cause the body to carry out processes with less efficiency because they’re bogged down with unnecessary molecules. When these molecules form and accumulate in large quantities, they can cause kidney disease, heart disease, diabetes, and an increased risk of Alzheimer’s.
Theoretically, inflammation should be a good thing, because it means your body is speeding white blood cells to an area that has just been injured or damaged in some way. This is a natural part of your immune system. But sometimes, the immune system can get out of whack and mistakenly attack areas that have not been damaged, and when this happens, the inflammation will just be an uncomfortable and sometimes painful development. Inflammation can also be acute or chronic, meaning short-term or long-term. In short-term cases, an irritant will trigger the inflammation and this will die down when the trigger is removed. Chronic inflammation will occur and persist, even after any triggers have been removed.
A great many studies have been conducted in this area, and all have found a direct correlation between high sugar intake and an increased likelihood of inflammation. While there is a great deal of variability in how sugar intake impacts people, a consistent theme shows that high sugar intake leads to chronic inflammation more often than not. When chronic inflammation develops in a senior individual, it can significantly increase the potential for developing diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, and other joint diseases, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and even some forms of cancer.
High sugar intake and diabetes
When a person ingests too much sugar, it can literally overwhelm the body’s natural processes and cause serious problems. Whenever you consume anything sugary, your body responds by producing insulin, which tells all body parts to absorb this sugar for energy. If insufficient insulin gets produced, or the insulin is not used efficiently, much of that sugar remains in the bloodstream, and that’s where all the problems come in. When this sugar level builds up in your bloodstream, it will generally lead to heart disease, kidney disease, vision loss, and a whole host of other undesirable health conditions.
When a senior – or anyone else for that matter – continues to ingest excessive quantities of sugar over a prolonged period of time, it can quickly lead to obesity. It has been estimated that if obesity continues at the same pace, all American adults will either be overweight or obese by the year 2048. This is a staggering statistic. Can you even imagine an entire nation of overweight, unhealthy adults? Obesity is closely tied to the development of diabetes, and in fact, the two go hand-in-hand quite often. Your senior loved one may not have decades left to become obese, but they can certainly be well on their way if allowed to consume excess quantities of sugary foods. The health issues described above should make it clear that even seniors must manage their diets carefully, and favor fruits, vegetables, and fibrous foods over those loaded with unhealthy sugars.