Diabetes is a common disease, but if not properly monitored and addressed, it can be dangerous—especially for seniors. Diabetes Education Week is November 4-10 this year, and serves as a reminder to all of us that we need to eat right, exercise, and take preventative measures against diabetes at all ages.
As you may know, there are two different forms of diabetes: Type 1, and Type 2. Type 1 diabetes is less common, and happens when your body makes little or no insulin on its own. This type can be present in older adults, but is seen more commonly in children and young adults. The other form of diabetes, Type 2, happens when your body is producing insulin but not utilizing it properly to regulate your blood sugar. This is the more common form of diabetes, and affects older individuals more frequently. It is also more common in patients who are overweight, inactive, or have a family history of the disease.
In fact, more than 25 percent of the U.S. population age 65 and older has diabetes. Diabetes in older adults is linked to higher mortality rates and increases the risk for complications of the disease. Older adults with diabetes are also more at risk for lower-extremity amputation, visual impairment, and renal issues. Some common signs to look for when determining if you should talk to your doctor about diabetes are feelings of tiredness, hunger, or thirst, rapid weight loss, frequent urination, or blurred vision. Additionally, skin infections and slowly-healing skin are symptoms that you shouldn’t ignore. A more complete list of symptoms can be found here.
For seniors living with diabetes, the most effective ways of keeping symptoms under control are through healthy lifestyle choices. Besides ensuring you are following the guidance of your doctors and taking the medications you need, most of which are covered through Medicare Part D, you should focus on healthy eating habits and getting plenty of exercise.
Staying educated on the diseases that affect aging Americans is extremely important. Knowing your family health history, following the advice of your doctor, and paying close attention to your body are the best ways to monitor for diabetes and other illnesses. As seniors, we also have the experience necessary to effectively educate those around us—so keep your knowledge on this topic sharp and make sure you are spreading that awareness to your family and other communities this Diabetes Education Week.