4 Great Tips for Aging Gracefully with Diabetes
Aging is a natural process that everyone goes through, but, if you have diabetes and it is not controlled well, this process is accelerated. So, you overtake those people( age wise) without diabetes and appear much older than them.
In my day-to-day medical practice, I come across many patients aging from their 20s to 70s suffering from diabetes. Whereas those aged forties are easy to manage, those above fifties are most vulnerable or prone to various complications. We will discuss these complications and some great tips to age well with diabetes.
Why Am I Writing This Article?
If you have been living with diabetes for quite some time, and are well past your productive age- I mean if you are retired and a senior citizen– this article will offer you some very useful tips which help you to age gracefully.
Even those of you who are still active in your life, i.e., if you are in your 40s and 50s, this article will help you make or take decisions that can be useful going ahead in your fight with diabetes.
In case you prefer listening to this article, here is an audio version that I have created specifically for you-
Here are some figures about the elderly population living with diabetes-
1. Global statistics- In 2019, it is estimated that 19.3% of people aged 65-99 years (135.6 million, 95% CI: 107.6-170.6 million) live with diabetes. It is projected that the number of people older than 65 years (65-99 years) with diabetes will reach 195.2 million by 2030 and 276.2 million by 2045. For the regional distribution, the highest prevalence in 2019 being the North America and Caribbean Region at 27.0%. Countries with the highest number of people older than 65 years with diabetes are China, the United States of America and India. Source-
2. Indian statistics- about 26.1% of urban and 9.3% of rural elderly people above 60 years were suffering from diabetes ( click here for statistics of elderly Indian Diabetics for details)
The Four Pillars Of Aging Well With Diabetes
As in normal people, we age gracefully if we adopt these four pillars of good health-
- Timely Medication³
In my previous articles, I have emphasized the importance of these 3 pillars which keep us healthy. Sleep is one more pillar that I would like to discuss in this article. It is more so in patients who are aging and having diabetes.
Now let us learn all about the likely complications of diabetes as we age and how to tackle them one by one-
Complications of Diabetes and Aging
As we age, functions of most of the vital organs like the heart, eyes, ears, kidneys, brain, urinary system, and musculoskeletal system, slow down. Aging and diabetes need to go hand in hand so that one lives longer and that too happily.
What are these changes occurring in diabetes with aging and why are they more important?
Diabetes enhances the effects of aging in an adverse way. With age, we slow down in many ways, for eg., walking slowly, eating slowly, lesser sleeping hours, etc. Furthermore, there is a decline in β- cell function leading to less insulin production.
Moreover, it has been noticed that there is a decrease in physical activities like exercise, leading to loss of muscle mass. This again increases the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
How does this happen?
Very simple- muscles absorb glucose from the blood for its activity like the movement of joints, etc. As we age, there is a gradual shrinking of muscle- termed loss of muscle mass- leading to less absorption of glucose from the blood. In diabetes, due to lack( absolute in Type 1 and partial in Type 2) of insulin, this is enhanced furthermore.
The Symptoms of Diabetes in the aged
Here again, the classic symptoms of diabetes -polyuria, polyphagia, and polydipsia- the 3 Ps, may also be absent in the elderly.
Also, due to poor metabolism and the use of medications for other co-morbidities, there is an increased chance of developing hypoglycemia which the patient may not be aware of.
The Common Complications of Aging with Diabetes
If you have an elderly person living with you, and if they have diabetes, you must have noticed that they may have-
High BP or hypertension–
This is related to the functioning of the heart and the blood vessels, wherein diabetes can affect the arteries by causing thickening of its wall.
Diminution of vision–
This is related to the eyes and may be due to cataracts[eye lens becoming opaque], glaucoma[increase in the pressure in eyeball], or retionpathy[changes in the part of the back of eyes-the retina- that relays information to the brain of what we see]- all which can be due to increased blood sugar.
Loss of hearing–
Either partially or fully due to nerves of the ears getting affected by diabetes.
Acute or Chronic Kidney Failure–
Also termed diabetic nephropathy-the kidney filtration ability being altered due to diabetes.
Dementia or depression
Because of brain blood vessels getting affected by diabetes.
Also termed urinary continence due to the bladder nerves getting affected by diabetes.
Changes in the functioning of the Brain and the peripheral nervous system–
Also termed Diabetic neuropathy.
Based on these complications, we will discuss various tips to overcome them one by one. Moreover, I will discuss these tips in separate articles so that you will be able to understand and remember them one at a time.
In my next article, I will discuss the importance of exercise and its effects on aging as well as diabetes.
If you have liked this article so far, do give me a like, suggestions, and share with your near and dear ones.
Till then, Adios!