by Millie Jones
The only way to know if you have diabetes is to get tested, even if you’re not showing symptoms. If you’re a senior who is overweight, carries fat in your waistline, or has a close family member with diabetes, then you should have your blood glucose tested right away.
Diabetes starts with insulin, a hormone created in the pancreas to convert sugar from digested food into energy. Insulin carries glucose through the bloodstream to other cells in the body to give it the energy to survive. When the body becomes insulin-resistant or unable to produce insulin, diabetes occurs. Since insulin regulates glucose in the blood, a diabetic is prone to unstable levels of blood sugar. Most diabetics have Type 2, and it typically develops later in life. Type 2 diabetes is caused by a combination of genetics, environment, and lifestyle. Obesity and cholesterol can also increase your risk.
When your blood test shows high glucose levels, you could be prediabetic, which means your chances of developing diabetes increases. The CDC has found that 84 million people have prediabetes. To reverse this diagnosis, your focus should be on maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise.
Diabetes in Seniors
Diabetes develops in seniors because their pancreatic function weakens. Decades of unhealthy eating can lead to obesity in later years, and fat interferes with insulin use. However, you don’t necessarily have to be heavy in order to be at risk for diabetes. People in a normal weight range are also at risk when they get older, especially if they carry excess fat in their lower belly.
Untreated diabetes and high blood glucose can lead to serious complications, such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, limb amputation, and blindness. For seniors who are already at higher risk for health issues, having diabetes further increases the risk of these complications. Short-term complications like hypoglycemia (low blood glucose) and hyperosmolar hyperglycemic nonketotic syndrome (high blood glucose) can also result from Type 2 diabetes. HHNS is rare, but it’s more commonly seen in older adults.
If you’re at least 65 years old, then you qualify for Medicare coverage or a Medicare Advantage Plan provided by a private insurance company. The Medicare system can be challenging to navigate, and it gets even more challenging when you add diabetes into the mix. With 25 percent of seniors over age 65 living with diabetes, it’s important to understand how to get the proper health care you need to manage this disease.
Medicare Part B plan will help cover your endocrinologist visits, blood glucose testing equipment and monitors, lancets, insulin and pumps, and other supplies related to diabetes treatment and management. Medicare Part D will help cover medication, such as insulin, anti-diabetic drugs, and supplies for administering insulin. Treatment can also include a doctor-recommended lifestyle program to help regulate your blood sugar.
Besides screening, medication, and treatment by a doctor, you can manage your diabetes with a healthy lifestyle by eating a balanced diet and exercising. A sedentary lifestyle not only contributes to the risk of developing diabetes, but it also raises your blood glucose levels when you have diabetes. The SilverSneakers exercise program for seniors is included in some private Medicare Advantage plans, such as some plans offered by Humana. With SilverSneakers, senior members have access to gyms, fitness classes, sports leagues, and outdoor activities. You may even get access to yoga classes. Yoga can be the perfect exercise for seniors because it improves bone health and flexibility, reduces stress, and can help you sleep better. Be sure to see if you’re eligible for this program before you select a Medicare plan.
Getting older means a higher likelihood of health issues. It’s a fact of life, but it’s not an uncontrollable fate. If you think you may be at risk for diabetes or simply want peace of mind, make an appointment to get your blood sugar tested. If you’re prediabetic, take preventive measures now to avoid a diabetes diagnosis. If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, stay on top of your treatment program. Your life could depend on it.
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