Updated: Sep 17, 2020
What is diabetes? Diabetes occurs when your body can't control blood glucose levels properly. Normally, the digestive tract breaks down food into glucose, a form of sugar. After being absorbed through the gut wall, it is released into our bloodstream. The hormone insulin, produced by our pancreas, stimulates cells to absorb glucose from our bloodstream and use it for energy.
Type 1 diabetes, normally appears in childhood and is a result of your immune system mistakenly attacking insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.
Type 2 diabetes occurs when you become resistant to the effect of insulin. The pancreas responds by producing more of the hormone, but eventually, it can't keep up, blood sugar levels rise and problems ensue.
High glucose levels in your body can damage nerves and blood vessels, lead to heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney disease, and gum infections. Advanced type 2 diabetes can result in blindness and the need to amputate limbs that no longer get adequate circulation.
Although it is possible to develop type 1 diabetes after the age of 50, it's type 2 that is the real problem in our demographic. At 50 years old around 6% of the male population has diabetes, by the time you get to 65 years old that figure has increased to 15.7%. 90% of all diabetes is type 2.
Who Gets type 2 diabetes? Anyone can get type 2 diabetes but your chances of contracting
this disease is increased by :
Ageing - the ageing process makes our bodies less tolerant of sugar
Hereditary predisposition - somebody else in your family has been diagnosed as having type 2 diabetes.
Metabolic syndrome (a cluster of problems that include high cholesterol, high triglycerides, low good 'HDL' cholesterol and a high bad 'LDL' cholesterol, and high blood pressure).
Prediabetes. People with a diagnosis of prediabetes have higher glucose levels than normal but not high enough to be called diabetes and a greater risk than normal of developing type 2 diabetes.
What Are the Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes?
The symptoms of type 2 diabetes vary from person to person but may include:
Increased hunger (especially after eating)
Nausea and occasionally vomiting
Fatigue (weak, tired feeling)
Numbness or tingling of the hands or feet
Frequent infections of the skin or urinary tract
Rarely, a person may be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes after presenting to the hospital in a diabetic coma.
If you think that you are suffering any of these symptoms go to your doctor. Tests for diabetes are quick and straightforward, and like many things in life the earlier you get help the better the likely outcome.
Complications of Type 2 Diabetes. If your type 2 diabetes isn't well controlled, there can be serious consequences including:
Retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes, caused by high blood sugar levels damaging the back of the eye (retina). It can cause blindness if left undiagnosed and untreated.
Kidney damage. The risk of kidney disease increases over time, meaning the longer you have diabetes the greater your risk. This complication carries significant risk of serious illness -- such as kidney failure and heart disease.
Poor blood circulation and nerve damage. Damage to nerves and hardening of the arteries leads to decreased sensation and poor blood circulation in the feet. This can lead to increased infections and an increased risk of ulcers which heal poorly and can in turn significantly raises the risk of amputation. Damage to nerves may also lead to digestive problems, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea.
Here are a few steps to take to enjoy a healthy life with type 2 diabetes after age 50:
1. Take your medications as directed by your doctor. One reason people don’t have good control over their type 2 diabetes is that they don’t take their medications as directed. If your doctor has prescribed something, take it, if you're having problems with it talk to your doctor, don't just leave it. Remember type 2 diabetes can be deadly.
2. Get regular exercise. Regular exercise can help you lose weight and increase insulin sensitivity. Increased insulin sensitivity means your cells are better able to use the available sugar in your bloodstream. Exercise also helps your muscles use blood sugar for energy and muscle contraction. Check out our blog on getting fit at 50 plus.
3. Check your sugar levels regularly. If you have problems with blood sugar control, you should routinely check your levels. This will help you learn how you respond to different activities and keep your blood sugar levels from getting either too high or too low. There are a wide range of home-use blood sugar level monitoring products available on amazon. If in doubt ask your doctor for some advice.
4. Avoid sugar and high-carb, processed foods. You should reduce the amount of sugar and high-carbohydrate processed foods you eat. This includes desserts, sweets, sugary drinks, packaged snacks, white bread, rice, and pasta. Check out our blog on healthy living.
5. Drink plenty of fluids. Stay hydrated throughout the day. Drink plenty of water.
6. Reduce stress. Stress can affect your blood sugar levels. Hormones such as glucagon and cortisol are secreted during stress. These hormones cause blood sugar levels to go up. One study showed that exercise, relaxation and meditation significantly reduced stress and lowered blood sugar levels for students Exercises and relaxation methods like yoga and mindfulness-based stress reduction can also correct insulin secretion problems in chronic diabetes
7. Maintain a healthy weight. Ask your doctor about a healthy weight range for your height and age. See a nutritionist for help deciding what to eat and what to avoid. They can also give you tips for losing weight.
8. Get regular checkups from your healthcare team. Regular checkups will help your doctors catch minor health issues before they turn into major ones.
Final thoughts. We're 50plus, we know we can’t turn back the clock, but when it comes to type 2 diabetes, we can take steps to help ourselves and improve our situation. If we stay on top of our symptoms and work with our doctors to develop a healthy lifestyle we can expect to live a long and full life with type 2 diabetes. If we don't we can expect serious problems.
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