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What Seniors Need to Know About Diabetes

What Seniors Need to Know About Diabetes

Diabetes ranks high among America’s most serious health challenges and remains our nation’s seventh-leading cause of death. While diabetes impacts more than 30-million Americans across the age spectrum, the disease is most prevalent among seniors. In fact, more than 25 percent of those age 65 and older have diabetes.

Not only are some 12-million older adults contending with diabetes, but this condition presents unique challenges to seniors. April is Defeat Diabetes Month, and that’s why ATRIO Health Plans is reaching out to those in the 65-plus category and sharing what they need to know about this disease that takes more than 76,000 American lives annually.

Complications that Accompany Age

Although diabetes—which is a group of diseases characterized by high blood glucose levels resulting from defects in the body's ability to produce and/or use insulin—is accompanied by complications for sufferers of all ages, seniors face challenges that others may not. Consequently, older adults should pay particular attention to their:

  • Hearing—While hearing capabilities often decrease in the senior years, an older adult with diabetes is twice as likely to experience significant hearing loss.
  • Vision—Although many older adults report reductions in their visual capabilities, those with diabetes also are at risk of blood vessels constricting and damaging vessels in the eyes. If seniors have both diabetes and high blood pressure, their vision and eye health are at even greater risk of deterioration.
  • Brain Function—Short-term memory and other brain functions can decline with age. Diabetes can exacerbate cognitive decline by depositing plaques in the brain, further impeding the brain's ability to function. Managing diabetes is challenging, and impaired brain function makes it even more so. Older adults with diabetes many need assistance from family or home-health providers.
  • Joints and Bones—In our senior years, joints can become worn as well as painful, and bones more brittle. For those with arthritis, diabetes can increase the joint disease's negative impact. Older adults with diabetes also have a higher incidence of neuropathy, which can cause a burning or pins-and-needles sensation in the arms and/or legs. Diligent self-management of diabetes is key to preventing or at least minimizing nerve damage.

Be a Diabetes Self-Management Star

Older adults with diabetes need to be particularly proactive when it comes to managing this potentially devastating disease. Become a self-management star by:

  • Tracking your blood sugar levels daily, either through a home blood glucose meter or a smart-phone app.
  • Reading food labels so you not only can make wise choices for someone with diabetes, but also so you are aware of what constitutes a single serving of the item you've selected.
  • Exercising regularly, which can have a positive impact on blood sugar and insulin levels. First consult with your physician, who can suggest appropriate physical activities.
  • Scheduling annual checkups to assess the health of your eyes and kidneys. It's also important to get yearly flu and pneumonia vaccinations, and to have your cholesterol checked at least annually.

There's no time like the present to become a diabetes self-management star.