Diabetes is a dangerous disease that runs rampant among the senior population. It’s recorded that at least sixty-five percent of all people with diabetes will die due to complications that develop in organs and tissues in the body over a long period of time of having the disease.
Diabetes is characterized by hyperglycemia (excess blood sugar) and insulin resistance (which prevents glucose from entering the cells and, instead, builds it up in the blood), which results in the initial symptoms of diabetes which include increased thirst and frequent urination that results from excess glucose in the bloodstream sucking water from tissues. To put it simply diabetes forces the body to take in more liquids and, as a result, excrete more fluid.
Early diagnosis is critical in order to track more obvious diabetes symptoms like.
- Feeling rundown and lethargic.
- Weight loss or weight gain, as you may eat more or try to make up for the lost fluids. Or you may lose weight because your muscles don’t get enough glucose.
- Blurred vision, as excess levels of sugar pull fluid from the lenses of your eyes.
- Sores or wounds that heal slowly.
- Frequent urinary tract infections.
- Numbness, tingling or a burning sensation in your arms and legs due to decreased circulation, which ultimately can lead to nerve damage.
Diabetes education is important because many of those at risk either misunderstand or ignore the disease and act only when the situation becomes dire. This can result in one or more of the debilitating health problems of untreated diabetes which includes cardiovascular disease, loss of vision, nerve damage, or in severe cases, the loss of limbs.
Types of Diabetes
There are two main kinds of diabetes.
- In Type 1 diabetes, the body does not make insulin. Although older adults can develop this type of diabetes, it begins most often in children and young adults, who then have diabetes for life.
- In Type 2 diabetes, the body does not make or use insulin well. It is the most common kind of diabetes. It occurs most often in middle-aged and older adults. Chances of getting type 2 diabetes is higher if you are overweight, inactive, or have a family history of diabetes. Women with a history of gestational diabetes (a type of diabetes that develops during pregnancy) also have a greater chance of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
Managing The Condition
As a diabetic, you need to work closely with your doctor to manage your condition. This includes:
- Having regular blood tests to make sure your diabetes is under control.
- Having your eyes checked regularly to keep track of diabetic retinopathy that causes deterioration in the blood vessels of the retina.
- Monitoring your weight and blood pressure and making changes if necessary.
- Checking the health of your feet for any signs of foot ulcers or infections and discussing proper footwear if necessary.
- Monitoring your levels of cholesterol and triglycerides (the types of fat found in the bloodstream).
The single most effective treatment, as well as the best prevention for diabetes, is gradual and permanent weight loss. This involves decreasing your caloric intake and, at the same time, increasing your level of exertion. Simply put, this means a change of diet and exercising more.
- Increase your intake of vegetables, fruit, and whole grains that are high in complex carbohydrates. Decrease the amount of red meat and sugars you eat.
- Avoid alcoholic beverages. Alcohol dehydrates the body and reduces the recovery rate of your blood sugar levels.
- Maintain a proper exercise regimen, and if possible, work with a certified trainer to help you through the process.
- When exercise and dieting aren’t enough, consider taking drug or medicines to increase insulin levels, though you should be careful of any side effects.
While it is technically possible to reduce blood sugar levels back to normal or prediabetic levels, the most important thing to do when you’ve reached this level is maintain the lifestyle changes to minimize the risk of diabetes affecting you in your senior years.