Diabetes is a chronic metabolic disease affecting more and more people. It is now one of the most common chronic diseases, making it an epidemic of the 21st century. It is a condition characterised by frequent hyperglycemia, in other words, elevated blood glucose levels, as well as sudden drops – hypoglycaemics.
However, not everyone realises what diabetes is, how dangerous the consequences of untreated diabetes can be and that the elderly in particular are at risk of diabetes. What is diabetes? What are its types? How do you recognise the signs of being diabetic and react quickly? And what is the relationship between diabetes and older adults? We are about to tell you all about it.
What is diabetes?
As defined by the World Health Organisation, diabetes is a serious, chronic disease that develops when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin, the hormone that regulates blood glucose levels, or if the body cannot properly use the insulin produced. If too little insulin is produced or the insulin does not work properly, glucose remains in the blood, leading to numerous negative health consequences, especially when it comes to diabetes in the elderly.
What are the diabetes types?
Diabetes is a term that covers all conditions that lead to elevated blood glucose levels, although this can occur for a variety of reasons. We leave out one type – gestational – because this type of diabetes and older adults do not go hand in hand. There are different types of diabetes, and these include the following types.
Type I diabetes
Type I diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which there is an irreversible destruction of the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas, it usually begins at a young age and is treated with synthetic insulin injections.
Type II diabetes
Type II diabetes is a chronic disease that develops slowly and results from progressive insulin resistance, a condition in which the body does not respond properly to insulin and a decrease in insulin secretion by the pancreas. The causes of type II diabetes are mainly improper lifestyles, but also certain genetic conditions. It is the most common diabetes in the elderly.
Dangers of diabetes in the elderly
As type II diabetes is asymptomatic for a long time, it is often only diagnosed in old age. However, over the years, the impact of increased blood glucose concentrations can significantly affect the functioning of many organs of the body. Abdominal-type obesity, hypertension and lipid disorders, together form the so-called metabolic syndrome – here are just a few of the dangers of diabetes in the elderly.
The co-occurrence of these diseases exponentially increases the risk of death from cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack or stroke. A co-morbidity with type 2 diabetes is also sometimes obstructive sleep apnoea, which is favoured by damage to nerve endings, so-called diabetic neuropathy. Diabetes in old age also causes many other complaints, such as:
- tingling and numbness in the limbs,
- sensory disturbances,
- muscle weakness,
- painful muscle spasms.
- diabetic retinopathy, i.e. damage to the retina of the eye,
- diabetic kidney disease,
- diabetic foot syndrome.
Diabetes and older adults – signs of being diabetic
The risk of diabetes in the elderly after the age of 45, as well as seniors, is very high. It is therefore worthwhile to carry out screening tests to help establish the disease. This is all the more so because people at risk usually have atypical symptoms. What are the signs of being diabetic?
Older people suffering from hyperglycaemia may mention symptoms such as visual disturbances, deterioration of memory or problems with urination. A fungal infection or urinary tract infection can also be one of the signs of diabetes in older people. A recent stroke or heart attack may also be associated with the disease.
Diabetes and older adults – measures
According to the current state of knowledge and the results of numerous studies, experts are convinced that a change in lifestyle with a diet based on the Principles of Healthy Eating and regular physical activity is the best tool to combat diabetes. By changing habits, the risk of developing the disease is reduced and the risks of complications are reduced.
How to fight diabetes in old age?
- Step 1: Change your senior’s dietary regime and follow your doctor and/or diabetologist’s advice. Eating fibre-rich foods like whole-grain products, certain vegetables, fruits (prunes, apple and pear pulp), and nuts.
- Step 2: Give the senior medication regularly.
- Step 3: Regularly check the senior’s blood sugar levels.
- Step 4: Physical activity that increases muscle sensitivity to insulin.
- Step 5: Controlling the senior’s weight.
- Step 6: Observing the senior’s behaviour – this will recognise hypoglycaemia and hyperglycaemia.
Diabetes and older adults – conclusion
Diabetes in old age is particularly dangerous and should not be taken lightly. If you suspect diabetes in yourself or a loved one, be sure to consult your doctor and change your diet.