Type 2 diabetes affects about 27 million people in the U.S. — including about 12 million seniors. This serious condition involves a problem with insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas to help the body convert sugar to energy.
In Type 2 diabetes, the pancreas either doesn’t produce enough insulin, or the body is unable to use insulin to keep blood sugar at a normal level. This leads to high blood sugar, which causes damage in many areas of the body. At the same time, since the cells aren’t getting the sugar they need, they don’t function properly.
Diabetes can be dangerous, because extremely high or extremely low levels of sugar in the blood can cause a life-threatening loss of consciousness, called diabetic coma or diabetic shock. Left untreated, this can result in permanent brain damage or even death.
What Causes Diabetes?
Not everyone with type 2 diabetes is overweight, but obesity and lack of physical activity are common causes of the disease. Other risk factors include high blood pressure, heart disease, and a family history of diabetes.
If your blood sugar is high, but not high enough to diagnose diabetes, you may have prediabetes. This means you are at greater risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Women who have gestational diabetes (a temporary form of the disease during pregnancy) are at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes later on.
Even with several risk factors present, diabetes can be prevented if the patient takes action. Losing weight, exercising, and taking steps to lower blood pressure and cholesterol help prevent diabetes.
Diabetes in Seniors
About half of all senior citizens are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The condition is especially dangerous in seniors. Lack of exercise, poor eating habits, memory loss, and lapses in care increase the risk of a life-threatening complication.
Seniors with risk factors for diabetes may be able to avoid the onset of the disease by eating a healthy diet that includes adequate amounts of protein, fresh fruits, and vegetables, limiting excess starches and sweets, and getting some exercise.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
Undiagnosed diabetes can lead to serious health problems, including cardiovascular disease, kidney failure, stroke, and blindness. Early detection and treatment is crucial to decrease the risk of complications.
Symptoms of diabetes include:
- Unusual feelings of thirst or hunger
- Blurry vision
- Extreme fatigue
- Unexplained weight loss
- Frequent urination
- Pain, tingling, or numbness in the hands or feet
- Skin injuries that are slow to heal
Some of these symptoms can be due to other conditions, so it’s important to see a doctor when symptoms like these occur.
American Diabetes Association: http://www.diabetes.org