healthy diet concept for senior woman with diabetesAbout 25 percent of adults 65 and older live with diabetes. Those who have type 2 diabetes are more likely to be hospitalized or die from complications of the disease.

Older adults with diabetes are also more likely to experience mobility issues and cardiovascular complications. Here’s what you should know about diabetes for yourself or a loved one.

Understanding Diabetes

Diabetes affects the body’s use of insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar. This disruption leads to elevated glucose levels, which can have a ripple effect on overall health.

For people with diabetes, the body may not produce sufficient insulin or use it improperly. As a result, an elevated amount of glucose remains in the blood. Over time, especially if your diabetes goes untreated or is poorly managed, this pattern can contribute to:

  • Heart disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Strokes
  • Cardiovascular issues
  • Nerve damage
  • Certain types of cancer
  • Alzheimer’s disease

Diabetes falls into two general types:

  • Type 1 Diabetes: The body does not produce enough insulin. Type 1 is more common in children but still has potential to emerge in adulthood.
  • Type 2 Diabetes: The body produces enough insulin but does not process or use it correctly. Also called “adult diabetes”, type 2 diabetes accounts for 90 percent of all cases. Your risks increase based on family history, if you developed gestational diabetes during pregnancy and lifestyle factors like smoking or being overweight.

According to the ADA, about 50 percent of older Americans live with prediabetes. Adults with undiagnosed or improperly managed prediabetes may soon develop type 2 diabetes.

How do you know you’re living with type 2 diabetes? Adults of all ages experience a combination of the following symptoms:

  • Constant fatigue or tiredness
  • Increased hunger or thirst
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Frequent urination
  • Blurred vision
  • Skin infections and injuries take longer to heal

Diabetes in Older Adults

Unfortunately for seniors, diabetes symptoms may be dismissed as an age-related change. While age does increases one’s risk for developing type 2 diabetes, seniors can also be more susceptible from:

  • Inactivity: Exercise and insulin help utilize glucose as fuel for the body. This process is less likely to occur in physically inactive people, causing the muscles to hold onto glucose and increase blood sugar levels.
  • Sleep Deprivation: Sleep habits change with age. Decreased or poor quality sleep, along with elevated blood sugar levels and obesity, can lead to diabetes.
  • Metabolic Syndrome: Often correlates with a larger waistline and elevated blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Those with metabolic syndrome tend to experience prediabetes at higher rates.

Older adults also have a higher risk of diabetes-related complications, including kidney failure, heart disease, nerve damage, peripheral vascular disease, stroke and depression. Considering these risks, your doctor will regularly assess your health for signs of diabetes

Considering these risks, your doctor will regularly assess your health for signs of diabetes, running tests to assess the condition of your heart, cholesterol in your bloodstream, bone density, kidney functioning, blood glucose levels, nerve responsiveness and vision.

Preventing and Managing Diabetes for Seniors

If you’re diagnosed with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes, your doctor will develop a personalized plan to manage symptoms and help reduce its progression. Common recommendations include:

  • Weight Management: Make healthier food choices and exercise regularly. You may meet with a dietician to specifically review meal planning.
  • Quitting Smoking: Individuals who smoke have a higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes and giving up this habit can help control the condition.
  • Taking Medication: Your doctor may recommend a medication or insulin injections to help control the amount of glucose in your blood.
  • New Lifestyle Habits: Due to the risks of inactivity and decreased mobility, older adults can update their home to reduce potential fall hazards.

At West Hartford Health & Rehabilitation Center, we help patients manage prediabetes, Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes symptoms. To learn more about our services, contact us today.