Type 2 diabetes affects one in four seniors within the United States. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the symptoms of diabetes and the testing methods that can provide a diagnosis. While genetics do affect your likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes, there are prevention methods that are under your control.
Maintaining a healthy weight, engaging in routine exercise and maintaining a healthy diet can all decrease your chances of developing this chronic disease.
If you do develop type 2 diabetes, then it is crucial that you care for your body and manage the disease in order to avoid blindness, loss of hearing, dementia and other consequences that result from the disease. While some senior citizens who are diagnosed with diabetes will need medication or insulin shots as part of their care, some senior citizens can manage their blood glucose levels with exercise and diet alone. To learn more about type 2 diabetes and how it affects senior citizens, review the information that has been provided below.
What is type 2 diabetes?
When you consume food, your body turns the food that you eat into glucose. Insulin then helps glucose get into our cells where it can be turned into energy. Type 2 diabetes causes your body to fail to use insulin right away.
Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes and is a growing concern within the United States. While type 2 diabetes can appear in younger adults and children, it is most common in middle-aged adults and senior citizens. In fact, it is estimated that over 25 percent of senior citizens who are 65 years of age or older had type 2 diabetes. While type 2 diabetes is affected by factors that are out of your hands, such as genetics, you can reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes by managing your weight, eating a well-balanced diet and engaging in a regular exercise routine.
The Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes in Senior Citizens
There are a lot of senior citizens who have type 2 diabetes but are unaware that they have it. There are a variety of symptoms of type 2 diabetes including the following:
- Excessive hunger or thirst
- Weight loss, without trying to lose weight
- Frequent urination
- Blurred vision
- Slow to heal from infections, cuts and bruises
If you experience one or more of these symptoms, then it is important to speak with your primary care physician right away in order to have a diabetes screening.
How Type 2 Diabetes is Diagnosed
Your primary care provider will use several blood tests in order to diagnose type 2 diabetes. Standard testing includes the following:
- A random plasma glucose test, which can be given at any time during the day
- An A1C test, which can be given at any time during the day and will display your glucose level for the past 3 months
- Fasting plasma glucose testing, which can only be taken after you have gone without food for 8 hours
- Oral glucose tolerance test, which can be taken after overnight fasting and then again after 2 hours without having a sugary type of drink
Most doctors will want to have you tested for type 2 diabetes twice before making diagnoses.
There are many senior citizens who have type 2 diabetes but can control their blood glucose levels through strict diet and exercise. Others may need diabetes medications or insulin injections. No matter the severity of your type 2 diabetes, you will need to make lifestyle changes in order to manage this chronic medical condition. You can manage your type 2 diabetes by:
- Tracking your glucose levels, as glucose levels that are too high or too low can be dangerous to your overall health.
- Make healthy food choices. For some, this will mean losing weight while others may need to ensure they are getting an appropriate amount of nutrients while cutting out foods that are high in fat and sugar.
- Engage in a regular exercise routine as studies show that daily exercise can drastically improve glucose levels in senior citizens.
- Always take your prescribed diabetes medication, even when you are feeling good and ensure that you speak with your doctor if you have any side effects.
If you have other health concerns that have been caused by your doctor or if your doctor has not worked with diabetic patients in the past, then your doctor may recommend that you see another health care provider who can help your manage you type 2 diabetes. If you are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, then it is important to get your average blood glucose levels checked at least twice per year. You will also need to monitor both your blood pressure and cholesterol. You should quit smoking or at least cut back in order to reduce your risk of further complications.
Diabetes can affect your vision, so it is important to participate in yearly eye examinations. The disease can also affect your kidneys, but you can check your kidneys through either a blood test or urine test and it is recommended that you do this at least once a year. Lastly, take time each day to look at your feet for any red patches. If you find sores, blisters, infections, breaks in skin or build-up calluses, then contact your primary physician or a foot doctor.
What long-term effects does type 2 diabetes have on senior citizens?
If untreated or not taken seriously, then type 2 diabetes can result in serious health complications, as diabetes can affect many parts of your body.
As mentioned previously, diabetes can affect your vision, as prolonged high blood pressure can damage the blood vessels of the retina, a part of your eye. If this happens, then those blood vessels may break and leak blood into your eye, which can cause your vision to become cloudy or obscure. This can lead to diabetic retinopathy, which is the leading cause of blindness within the United States.
While some hearing loss is common among senior citizens, it is far more commonly seen in senior citizens with type 2 diabetes that remains uncontrolled.
Type 2 diabetes can also affect the way that your brain ages and high blood sugar levels can increase your risk for dementia, causing cognitive impairment.
Diabetes can cause nerve damage in your feet and, if not managed, then you may develop neuropathy. The Mayo Clinic estimates that at least half of all people with type 2 diabetes develop neuropathy. Symptoms of neuropathy include numbness and the reduced ability to feel pain in the feet and toes. It may also provide symptoms of pain in the feet that are most prominent when walking or sleeping. There are a few terrible complications of this disease, including the loss of extremities such as toes.