Out of the adult diabetic population in the United States, 39.5% are 65 years or above. This roughly translates to 1 out of 4 seniors being diabetic. However, that isn’t even the worst part. Many of these seniors are usually undiagnosed and oblivious to having this condition. However, diabetes in seniors doesn’t have to be a death sentence.
Although diabetes could be a life-long condition, it doesn’t mean seniors can’t still live active lives. There are many ways seniors can manage their diabetes, so its impact on their life is as minimal as possible. If you'd love to find out how this article is your best guide. It will explain the concept of diabetes, tips for managing diabetics in the elderly, and more.
Diabetes is a long-term disease that occurs when the blood sugar level in a person is quite high. Diabetes could be due to either the body not being able to produce its insulin (type 1 diabetes) or the body developing resistance to the effect of insulin (type 2 diabetes). Diabetes in seniors is usually the 2nd type.
Older people are usually predisposed to diabetes because of their reduced metabolism rate, reduced physical activity, aging, and weight gain. It exposes them to health complications such as stroke, slowed wound healing, kidney failure, heart attack, etc. some symptoms of diabetes in the elderly include blurred vision, fatigue, excessive thirst, etc. While this all sounds scary, knowing the type of diabetes you have could help you take the right management steps to prevent developing these long-term complications.
There are three types of diabetes which include:
This type of diabetes occurs when the body launches an attack on itself (an autoimmune reaction). This self-attack results in the body failing to produce enough insulin, which regulates the blood sugar level. Hence, the blood sugar level rises to a high level. Type 1 diabetes isn’t so common, having only a 5-10% occurrence.
This type of diabetes is common among children and teens and is rarely found in adults. Anyone with this condition would have to take insulin every day. Presently, there’s no cure for Type 1 diabetes.
This occurs when the body develops resistance to the effect of insulin, hence becoming unable to regulate blood sugar levels properly. This is the more common type of diabetes, occurring in 90-95% of people with diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is a common occurrence among seniors due to its higher risk among adults (although it is now occurring in children and teens).
The symptoms of type 2 diabetes could be latent, so you need to get tested if you’re at risk of developing the condition. The best way to manage or prevent Type 2 diabetes is by maintaining a healthy lifestyle. This includes practices such as eating healthily, exercising, and losing weight.
This type of diabetes occurs among pregnant women who were never diabetic patients. In most cases, diabetes goes away after childbirth. However, it means they’re at risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life. Also, it could mean health risks such as obesity for the child.
If you’re a senior or take care of a senior who experiences these symptoms:
Then, it is essential to see a health professional to get an accurate diagnosis to check if you’re at risk of diabetes.
When diagnosed with diabetes, careful treatment and lifestyle changes can help you stay healthy and active. Examples of steps you could follow include:
Eating healthy is a vital part of maintaining diabetes in seniors. The diet for elderly diabetic patients should have low sugar and saturated fats. It should be rich in vegetables, protein, fibers, and whole grains. You must avoid anything sugary, including carbonated drinks or fruit juice. You should also see a registered dietitian nutritionist or diabetes educator for professional advice on the diet for elderly diabetic patients.
One of the causes of diabetes in seniors is reduced activity and weight gain. However, you can easily burn the sugar they gain from food and lose body fat with regular exercise. See a verified workout trainer who can come up with a training regime that suits your fitness level. Also, you shouldn't forget that exercising when the blood glucose levels are low could also cause extreme weakness. Hence, it is important to carry energy-giving items such as glucose tablets when exercising.
Taking medications is probably what everyone hates the most, but they’re pretty important in managing diabetes in the elderly. It is advisable to set reminders or have someone who holds you accountable for taking them. Smartphone apps and accountability charts could also help. Also, make sure you’re not taking any drugs that have side interactions with your diabetes medication.
You’ll need to schedule routine checks with your health care team to ensure any symptoms are detected and treated early. You should carry out blood pressure checks, A1C tests (to check blood sugar level for the past 3 months), urine and blood tests, dental tests, cholesterol tests, etc. If you have access to insurance, you should check with your insurance provider to see what checks are covered.
Diabetes in seniors causes slow recovery from illnesses. Also, seniors have weaker immune systems, which means they are susceptible to sicknesses like flu and pneumonia. Hence, they need to get vaccinations for these illnesses to prevent having severe side effects caused by these illnesses. If you’ve gotten vaccinated for these illnesses before age 60, getting another vaccine dose to boost immunity is recommended. Getting the required vaccinations could be quite vital in staying healthy and managing the symptoms of diabetes.
Managing diabetes in the elderly requires careful planning and regular treatment. Remember to eat healthily, exercise regularly, get checked regularly, take medications and vaccinations, and you’ll live a healthy and blissful life.