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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the United States, and affects more than 30 million people in the U.S. (although only 25% of people actually know they have it). In addition, more than 84 million adults in the US have prediabetes, with only 10% knowing they have it.
The numbers don’t lie. Diabetes is a serious problem in the United States. And since it’s National Diabetes Awareness Month, it’s time to get serious about taking back our health by learning a few things about this serious problem.

Facts about diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is not as common as Type 2 (type 1 accounts for about 5% of all diabetes cases), and it cannot  be prevented. Type 2, on the other hand, is preventable for the most part. The number of cases of people with Type 2 has more than tripled in the last 20 years due to obesity and an aging population.
The following factors contribute to your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, or prediabetes:

  • Overweight
  • Older than age 45
  • Have a family member with type 2
  • Don’t exercise a minimum of three times in a week
  • Are a descendant of Africa, Latin America, Alaska natives, Pacific Islands, and Asia.
  • Smoke cigarettes
  • Stress/Depression

There are both short and long-term effects for untreated type 2 diabetes. Heart disease or suffering a stroke are among those complications. People may also suffer from increased infections, kidney failure, nerve damage, and experience vision problems.
Elderly people with type 2 diabetes are especially at risk for developing more serious complications. They are twice as likely to experience hearing loss. They are also have an increased likelihood of suffering from cognitive impairment and experiencing mobility issues.

Symptoms & Diagnoses

Since only one in four Americans actually knows they have diabetes, let’s review some common symptoms:

  • Excessive thirst – this is because excess sugars build up in your bloodstream and cause fluid to be pulled from the tissues.
  • Frequent urination
  • Hunger
  • Unexplained weight loss or weight gain
  • Lethargy – feeling constantly weak and low on energy
  • Obscured vision
  • Frequent infections, and slow-healing sores
  • Patches of dark skin (a sign of insulin resistance)
  • Urinary Tract Infections (UTI’s) – especially amongst seniors
  • Numbness and tingling in extremities
  • Gum disease and other dental problems (also common amongst seniors)

Although these symptoms are common signs of type 2 diabetes, it is important to note that not all cases will experience these. Some people will go several years before recognizing or exhibiting any symptoms. This is why it’s important to visit your doctor regularly. Often, people won’t learn of their type 2 diabetes until after visiting their physician for something else. It is recommended that if you are older than 45, you should have a fasting glucose test, and if it returns normal, screen again every three years after that. If you exhibit any of the above-mentioned symptoms before age 45, it is recommended you begin screening earlier.

Manage your risk

To help lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, it’s important to make sure you are taking good care of your health. A few lifestyle changes can go a long ways.
Eat fresh fruits and vegetables, and whole grains. Eliminate fat and sugar from your diet.
Get regular exercise, of at least 20 minutes for at least three days a week. By improving your diet and being active, you’ll also drop a few pounds–which will also help reduce your risk of developing type 2. Of course we’re not immune to understanding how hard this can be, especially in today’s world of fast food and convenience, but it is important. Try apps like MyFitnessPal to track your food and exercise.
Another way to lower your risk is to eliminate stress in your life. This is easier said than done. Several seniors enjoy doing this through meditation, yoga, tai chi, or a dance form called Nia.

Living with Diabetes

Just because you have diabetes, doesn’t mean you are doomed. There are several people who are able to manage their diabetes successfully through medications and a healthy diet and exercise. Find a doctor who can assist you with managing your diabetes and can explain the pros and cons of certain medications.
Learn as much as you can about diabetes so you are well-informed of your own health. It’s also beneficial to wear something that would notify others of your diabetes, in case something happened to you and you were unable to communicate this information.
Remember to schedule annual exams with your physician and optometrist. Get regular flu shots and immunizations to protect your body from infections.
Have good oral hygiene. Take proper care of your teeth and mouth. The American Dental Association recommends brushing your teeth twice per day, and flossing once a day. If you notice any unordinary redness or bleeding in your mouth, talk to your dentist immediately.
Properly take care of any open cuts or wounds to prevent any infection. Clean the area and keep it dry.

Summary

Type 2 diabetes is a serious problem in the United States, and it’s not cheap. In fact, medical costs for people with diabetes are about double when compared to those who don’t have diabetes.
Education is key in both preventing and managing type 2 diabetes. With National Diabetes Awareness Month upon us, we hope you and your senior loved one can better understand this condition in order to prolong your life and promote good health.
At Primrose you are more than just a patient number on a folder. You have an assigned team just for you working with your physicians to provide the highest quality in care. Let us help you with your diabetes questions. Call  (435) 787-1369 to see how we can help.