In America, around 12 million seniors over the age of 65 have diabetes — many of these people are undiagnosed. People of all ages can be diagnosed with diabetes, however, those diagnosed with type 1 diabetes are usually born with it. Type 2 diabetes is often developed over time due to a number of risk factors and lifestyle habits. Having a family history of diabetes, developing gestational diabetes during pregnancy, being overweight or obese, and not being physically active are a few of the major factors that can lead to type 2 diabetes. Overall, 30 million Americans have some form of the disease, with type 2 diabetes being the more common diagnosis.
Because symptoms may be nonexistent or so mild that they’re ignored, doctors sometimes have trouble when deciding if a patient has prediabetes or diabetes. If doctors believe their patient is at risk of diabetes, they may conduct several tests for early detection. The tests conducted by physicians most often measure the levels of blood glucose in the body, a tell-tale sign of diabetes. One of these exams is done when the patient has fasted for eight hours, one is done after they’ve fasted for eight hours and two hours after they’ve consumed a glucose-containing beverage, and the last one is a random plasma glucose test without regard for the last meal the patient has consumed.
Along with the daily hardships a diabetic might face, diabetes-related complications can arise. For example, diabetics are recommended to receive an annual flu shot because illnesses like the flu can make diabetes harder to manage. Any illness that results in a fever, throwing up, or diarrhea can make controlling blood glucose levels a more difficult task.
Other complications that diabetics may face are various heart-related conditions and diabetic retinopathy. High blood glucose levels can lead to damage in the blood vessels throughout the entire body. This can also result in damage to the nerves that control your heart and blood vessels. This damage can result in heart disease and stroke. Diabetic retinopathy affects the blood vessels in the eye’s retina. High blood sugar is directly related to damage to blood vessels in the retina, which can lead to eye-related health problems such as glaucoma, cataracts, and diabetic macular edema.
Lastly, diabetes medication can have many side effects. Some of these medications, such as certain SGLT2 inhibitors, have been found to cause more serious health complications aside from common ones that usually fade with time. Review the medical risks of any diabetes medications you are taking with your physician, and do not be afraid to discuss alternative medications if you are uncomfortable with any side effects associated with your current prescription.
Maintaining a healthy weight through proper diet and exercise can decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes, or help to manage it if you’ve already been diagnosed. A healthy diet would include low-fat, nutrient-rich foods that include whole grain bread and cereals, fruits, vegetables, dairy products, and lean proteins. Making sure that portion sizes are kept smaller can also help decrease the risk of developing diabetes.
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with diabetes, talk to your doctor about your risk for any diabetes-related complications. Together you and your doctor can create a unique treatment plan to avoid any negative health complications.