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November is American Diabetes Month

November is American Diabetes Month

November is American Diabetes Month, and ATRIO Health Plans is working to increase awareness that older adults with diabetes are particularly at risk for medical complications.

If you were to randomly gather four Americans age 65 or older, statistics indicate that at least one will have type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes occurs when people's bodies don't produce enough insulin, or their cells don't properly process the insulin that is produced. As a result, glucose stays in the bloodstream. Over time, accumulated glucose can lead to a wide range of serious medical complications.

Diabetes Complications

The most common complications associated with diabetes are:

  • Cardiovascular Disease–Diabetes significantly increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. It may also lower good cholesterol (HDL) and raise bad cholesterol (LDL).
  • Cognitive impairment–Studies have shown that the higher blood sugar levels associated with diabetes may have a damaging impact on the aging brain, potentially increasing the risk for dementia.
  • Hearing loss–Older adults with diabetes are twice as likely to experience hearing loss compared to their non-diabetic peers. That's because high glucose levels over time can damage small blood vessels and nerves inside the ear. It's thus recommended that seniors with diabetes have periodic hearing exams.
  • Mobility difficulties–According to experts, at least half of the diabetic patient population will develop neuropathy. While neuropathy can produce an array of symptoms, most commonly sufferers report numbness or a reduced ability to feel pain in their feet and toes, as well as tingling or burning sensations and pain that increases while walking or sleeping.
  • Nephropathy–Diabetes can impair the kidneys' ability to filter blood and eliminate waste excreted in urine, and nephropathy (kidney damage) can result. Symptoms of nephropathy include: swollen hands, feet, and ankles; anemia; shortness of breath; and high blood pressure. In severe cases, kidney function can be lost entirely, leading to end-stage renal disease.
  • Vision problems–Older adults with diabetes are at elevated risk for eye problems such as glaucoma, cataracts, and even blindness. A leading cause of blindness is diabetic retinopathy, which occurs when prolonged high blood sugar damages the blood vessels of the retina, causing them to break and leak blood into the eye, clouding or obscuring vision. Seniors with diabetes are advised to proactively control their blood sugar levels and to have annual eye exams.

Prevention

Of course, the most effective means of avoiding diabetes complications is to avoid the development of diabetes.

It can be done, as evidenced by a National Institutes of Health clinical trial. Specifically, participants over age 60 reduced their risk for type 2 diabetes by a whopping 71% through a combination of improved nutrition, increased physical activity, and achieving a 5% to 7% weight loss. By making a few small changes these seniors secured immense health benefits. There's no time like November–American Diabetes Month–to follow their lead.

Sources:

https://www.aplaceformom.com/planning-and-advice/articles/type-2-diabetes-in-seniors

http://main.diabetes.org/dorg/PDFs/living-with-diabetes/living-healthy-with-diabetes-guide.pdf

http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/statistics/

https://www.everydayhealth.com/sanjay-gupta/type-2-diabetes-and-the-elderly/

https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-statistics/diabetes-statistics