Diabetes in Older Adults

Diabetes is one of the most common diseases in the United States today, affecting one in four Americans over the age of 65. But Type 2 diabetes can be prevented with small, attainable lifestyle adjustments. Making these changes, whether before or after a prediabetes diagnosis, can help prevent and delay Type 2 diabetes and its associated health risks. These healthier choices can also help you or the older adult in your life experience a more independent aging process. 

Understanding Diabetes

Insulin is a hormone created by the body that takes excess sugar, or glucose, in the bloodstream and stores it within the body for use as energy. When a person has diabetes, there is a problem in the way their bodies create or use insulin. Without proper insulin levels, blood glucose can rise to extreme highs. This is known as hyperglycemia, and it can cause various health conditions over time, including heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and diabetic neuropathy. Alternatively, hypoglycemia, or extremely low blood sugar, can cause more immediate concerns like seizures and loss of consciousness. 

There are three types of diabetes, which fall under an umbrella of diseases called diabetes mellitus. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the body fails to create insulin. It is usually diagnosed before early adulthood. Type 2 diabetes, which affects over 90% of those living with diabetes, is a disease in which your body doesn’t distribute its insulin well and can’t control blood glucose levels. Gestational diabetes, which is diagnosed during pregnancy, also affects the body’s blood sugar levels, but usually dissipates soon after the pregnancy. Although it is unknown why any of these diseases develop, Type 2 diabetes can be prevented through lifestyle changes. 

Risk Factors 

Certain factors have been linked to the development of Type 2 diabetes, including: 

  • Being overweight or obese

  • Having an inactive or sedentary lifestyle

  • Smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke

  • Having a family history of diabetes

  • Being from certain ethnic backgrounds (African-American, Hispanic, Native American, Asian-American or Pacific Islander)

  • Having high blood pressure

If you or the older adult in your life fits into one or more of these categories, watch for the warning signs of diabetes detailed below and schedule an appointment with a primary care physician if symptoms appear. Depending on the severity of the symptoms during your visit, your doctor may recommend a visit to an endocrinologist. 

Warning Signs of Type 2 Diabetes

  • Frequent Urination

  • Dry Mouth

  • Increased Hunger 

  • Blurred Vision

  • Slow-Healing Cuts

  • Tingling or Numbness in Extremities

  • Dark Skin Patches

  • Frequent Infections

  • Fatigue

  • Unexpected Weight Loss

Prediabetes

Before being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, you or your loved one might be diagnosed with prediabetes. Prediabetes is a condition in which your blood glucose is unusually high, but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as Type 2 diabetes. You may be exhibiting other diabetes symptoms too; however, many people diagnosed with prediabetes experience no symptoms at all. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that up to 88 million Americans are currently living with prediabetes, most of whom are unaware of their condition. The most important thing to know about a prediabetes diagnosis is that Type 2 diabetes can still be avoided. 

Preventing Diabetes

One of the biggest factors in diabetes prevention is weight loss. Even shedding just a few pounds — between 5 and 7% of your body weight — can be enough to prevent or delay diabetes. Light exercise also helps, both as a weight loss tool and as a way to keep your body healthy. It’s recommended that adults at risk of diabetes get up to 150 minutes of exercise a week, or 30 minutes of exercise a day, five days a week.

Eating healthy is also an important factor in preventing diabetes. Talking to a professional can help narrow down a diet that’s right for you or your loved one, but an overall healthier diet with whole grains, lean fats and vegetables is a good starting point. Avoiding high-sugar foods, empty carbohydrates and trans fats is a key part of any diabetic diet. If you or your loved one is a smoker, quitting can significantly reduce diabetes risk as well. 

Don’t Go It Alone

Making small changes to prevent diabetes may sound easy, but it can often be hard to take those first steps. Agibly is here to make the journey easier. Search our listings to find resources and professionals in your area, or call 1-833-4-AGIBLY to speak with a Care Advisor today. 

10 Early Warning Signs of Type 2 Diabetes

  • Frequent Urination

  • Dry Mouth

  • Increased Hunger 

  • Blurred Vision

  • Slow-Healing Cuts

  • Tingling or Numbness in Extremities

  • Dark Skin Patches

  • Frequent Infections

  • Fatigue

  • Unexpected Weight Loss