Type 2 Diabetes in Seniors
As we age, we are faced with new challenges and the possible onset of new medical concerns. Type 2 diabetes in seniors is sometimes called an adult-onset illness, but younger adults and even children are living with type 2 diabetes today.
Chances are you have family members or friends living with the incurable condition and it has you concerned about getting type 2 diabetes as well. There are about 34 million people living with type 2 diabetes in the U.S. and 88 million who are predisposed to getting it. Diabetes in adults has more than doubled in the last 20 years because of the aging population and the health issues surrounding obesity.
What is Type 2 Diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes is an incurable and lifelong condition that prevents your body from using and metabolizing insulin in a healthy way. Your pancreas creates insulin (the hormone that helps your body move sugar in your bloodstream) and turns it into glucose to provide vital energy for your muscles to function properly.
When people have type 2 diabetes, the insulin does not transfer glucose to the cells and builds up in your bloodstream causing blood sugar levels to spike or drop. You may experience unpleasant symptoms when your body is not getting proper fuel to stay active and well.
Risks and Causes of Type 2 Diabetes
There are numerous factors that can bring on type 2 diabetes later in life. Genetics, environment and lifestyle are usually the key agents that affect insulin production and function. Risk factors include:
- Genes. Your risk factor is substantially higher if you have close family members, like your parents or siblings, who have type 2 diabetes.
- Weight. Being obese or overweight is one of the main causes of type 2 diabetes.
- Lifestyle. Leading an unhealthy and sedentary lifestyle can trigger the onset of type 2 diabetes.
- Fat distribution. You are at greater risk of having to deal with type 2 diabetes if you store fat in your midsection as opposed to other areas of your body.
- Age. Type 2 diabetes can occur at any time in your life, but it is more common to develop after the age of 45.
- Medical issues. You may be predisposed to developing type 2 diabetes if you have other medical conditions like high blood pressure, high levels of bad cholesterol, heart disease, high triglycerides and other health issues.
- Race. African Americans, Hispanic Americans, American Indians and Alaska Natives are at higher risk for pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes. American Indians and Alaska Natives are twice as likely to develop diabetes over their lifetime.
- Pre-diabetes. You may have pre-diabetes and not even know it. This is when your blood sugar level is high but not enough to cause serious complications. Left untreated, pre-diabetes has a higher chance of developing into type 2 diabetes.
What Are the Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes?
You may not know that you have type 2 diabetes until you start to experience unpleasant symptoms like:
- Excessive thirst
- Blurred vision
- Excessive urination
- Numbness in hands and feet
- Extreme fatigue and moodiness
- Weight loss
- Unusual hunger
- Recurring yeast infections
Talk with your doctor if you are experiencing some of the symptoms and have several risk factors. Your health care provider may prescribe a test to evaluate you, to see if you have type 2 diabetes or not.
Depending on the severity and advancement of the disease, your doctor may suggest lifestyle changes or possibly medication like Metformin to regulate your insulin.
Complications of Type 2 Diabetes in Seniors
When left untreated or poorly monitored, type 2 diabetes can have some dire consequences on your health and even damage certain internal organs. Type 2 diabetes can affect or lead to:
- Heart disease. You are five times more likely to get heart disease when you have type 2 diabetes.
- Damaged blood vessels. You are also at a higher risk for strokes and other circulatory complications.
- Damaged kidneys. Your kidneys may start to struggle and malfunction when your insulin is not controlled over an extended period of time.
- Damaged eyes. Type 2 diabetes, left untreated, can damage the blood vessels in your eyes and cause permanent damage and even blindness.
- Unhealthy skin. Type 2 diabetes can cause poor circulation and skin infections that do not heal.
- Brain defecits. Uncontrolled blood sugar levels can put you at risk for Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Ways to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes may be incurable, but it is controllable and possibly preventable with certain measures.
You may want to take precautions if you have several risk factors for type 2 diabetes. This includes leading a healthy lifestyle and controlling your weight through proper nutrition. Having a non-sedentary life and exercising regularly is also proven to help prevent and control type 2 diabetes.
Take the risk assessment test on the American Diabetes Association website to find out if you are at risk of getting type 2 diabetes.