One in four (25.2%) seniors in the United States have diabetes. That means twelve million people over the age of 65 have the disease. It’s costly for those who may already be living on a fixed income.The American Diabetes Association estimates that medical expenses for those with diabetes are 2.3 times higher than for people without the disease. It’s also the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S. For these reasons and more, avoiding diabetes, or managing it properly, is essential to good health and longevity.
Type 2 diabetes can develop at any time during adulthood. The most common symptoms can include:
- Frequent urination
- Feeling very thirsty or hungry even though you are eating and drinking
- Extreme fatigue that is not addressed by a good night’s sleep
- Blurry vision
- Cuts and bruises that are slow to heal
- Unexplained weight loss even though you are eating (usually symptomatic for Type 1 diabetes)
- Tingling, pain, or numbness in the hands and/or feet (usually symptomatic in Type 2 diabetes)
If any of these symptoms occur frequently it’s important to check with a physician. Early diagnosis and treatment can avoid the complications of diabetes which can include:
- Skin conditions including infections and itching
- Eye diseases including glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy
- Diabetes have an increased risk of cataracts
- Nerve damage called diabetic neuropathy
- Kidney disease
- Gastroparesis, a disorder in which the stomach takes too long to empty itself of food
Diabetes can complicate overall health, and that is why avoiding it or managing it properly is so important. There are many myths associated with diabetes and the risks for getting it. These get in the way of education about diabetes, cloud the ability to recognize its signs and symptoms, and avoid risks for the disease. Some of the myths include:
- Overweight people get diabetes: While overweight and obesity do increase the risk for the disease, they are not the only risk factor. Some people of average weight get diabetes as well. However, it is a good idea to try to lose weight, not only to prevent the onset of diabetes, but to avoid heart disease and other conditions as well.
- Diabetes is caused by eating sugar: To the extent that eating high amounts of sugar contribute to overweight and obesity, it is a risk factor. However, eating small amounts of sugar as part of a balanced diet does not in and of itself, cause the disease.
- People with diabetes need to eat special foods: They do not. They do need to eat a well-balanced diet that is full of fresh non-starchy vegetables, lean protein and whole grains. Packaged foods that are marketed as “special foods” for diabetics usually do exactly the opposite; they usually raise blood glucose levels. Selecting whole, fresh foods is the best diet for diabetics and non-diabetics alike.
- People with diabetes catch colds and flu more than other people. That is not true. Diabetes does not make a person with the disease more susceptible to colds and flu. However, it is a good idea for senior, with or without diabetes, to have a flu shot each year.
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with diabetes, see your physician regularly and ask to meet with a diabetes educator at your healthcare facility. He or she can help you understand how and what to eat to maintain healthy blood glucose levels. The educator is also a great resource to answer your questions, provide recipes, tips for grocery shopping and other types of helpful information. It is possible to live well with diabetes if you have the right information at your fingertips.
If you or your family member is considering in-home care as part of a plan to age in place, contact Family Matters In-Home Care today for a free consultation. Our team is dedicated to supporting your family and helping older adults enjoy life in the comfort of their own home for as long as possible.
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