Seniors And Diabetes

two older gentlemen hugging

( It should come as no surprise to any of us to hear that Diabetes is one of the top contributors to death in America today. Notice I said America, not the world.

You see, here in America we have skyrocketing diabetes rates among almost every segment of the population: women; men; children; and even the elderly.

Large amounts of muscle fat or abdominal fat may put elderly men and women with normal body weight at risk for developing Type 2 diabetes. Even though they’re not overweight, they may still be at risk for developing diabetes. An important factor in that risk is where their body fat is stored. The prevalence of Type 2 diabetes is highest among men and women over age 65, but the level of obesity in this group is only 14 percent, compared with 24 percent for people in their 50s.

What this suggests is that obesity isn’t the only factor that causes diabetes or glucose intolerance in elderly men and women. Fat distribution is also a key determination of those health issues in elderly people.  The effects of diabetes are tremendous no matter what age, but definitely as we age and the body doesn’t “bounce back” from damage or stress quite as easily, putting diabetes on top of that just aggravates the problems.

Also, with the aging process, many people change their eating habits, due to loss of teeth or dental problems, and those kinds of things can make it difficult to eat a well-balanced diet and stay healthy overall.

Here are some facts about the incidence of Diabetes in Seniors:

  • Diabetes prevalence increases with age.
  • Approximately half of all diabetes cases occur in people older than 55 years of age.
  • The risk for type 2 diabetes increases with age.  Nearly 20% of the United States population or seven (7) million people age 65 and older have diabetes.   People with diabetes represent 18% of all nursing home residents and tend to be younger than non-diabetic residents.
  • Approximately 65% of people with diabetes will die of heart disease or stroke, and they are likely to die younger than people who do not have diabetes.
  • Diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness in adults 20 to 74 years of age.
  • People with diabetes who are over 65 years of age are twice as likely to be hospitalized for kidney infections compared with those without diabetes.
  • About 60-70% of people with diabetes have mild to severe forms of diabetic nerve damage, which, in severe forms, can lead to lower limb amputations.

Now, before you start thinking the worst, there is hope: It is possible to prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes by reducing lifestyle risk factors through moderate weight loss and increased physical activity.  I am of the opinion that there are some specific areas of focus that are important to minimize the possibility of Diabetes plaguing your “golden years:”

Carbohydrate in the food we eat has the greatest impact on our blood sugars.

Diets high in complex carbs (like vegetables, root crops, whole grains and fruit) provide healthy nutrition for a long healthy life without heart disease and cancer. But with diabetes, carbohydrates must be balanced with insulin (whether it is injected or internally produced) or exercise to keep blood sugars normal. Balancing carbohydrates with insulin lets you keep your blood sugars controlled, and carbohydrate counting is an important tool for doing this. I’m sure you hear talk of counting carbohydrates in your diet. Trust me; it can make a difference in what kind of health you will enjoy as you age.

Let me leave you with a reminder about the 4 main complications that all diabetics are at risk for:

Kidney Disease
Elevated blood sugar will cause elevated blood pressure. If a person has high blood pressure and diabetes, their risk of kidney disease is even greater. Continuing high blood pressure causes damage to the kidney’s filtration mechanisms, and they can eventually fail. If the kidneys are not able to filter out the toxins and waste products, the person with diabetes would need either dialysis or a kidney transplant. The doctor should monitor kidney function with blood tests that are done during checkups.

Vision Loss or Blindness
Diabetics are at greater risk of glaucoma and vascular disease, which can affect vision. This can lead to severe <A href=”