Diabetes is linked to additional serious health conditions

An estimated 33% of adults aged 65 and older have diabetes – more than 1 in 4 older adults. And complications of diabetes put seniors at even higher risk of developing other serious medical conditions.

There are 6 common health conditions that happen at a much higher rate among seniors with diabetes. They include Alzheimer’s, heart disease, vision loss and increased risk of falls.

High blood sugar (hyperglycemia) and high levels of insulin (the hormone that manages blood sugar levels) start to damage your body silently, many years before you’re diagnosed with diabetes. If you don’t treat it, your nerves, blood vessels, and organs take a hit. And the complications can worsen the longer it’s neglected.

Early detection and treatment of these serious health conditions improves the ability to manage the disease and improves quality of life. When you know which symptoms to watch for, you’re more likely to catch these diabetes complications before they become severe.

What is diabetes?

When someone has diabetes, the level of glucose in their blood (blood sugar) is too high. This can happen when the body doesn’t make enough insulin. Insulin is what moves glucose from the blood into the cells of the body.

When there isn’t enough insulin, glucose doesn’t get moved into the cells. Instead, it builds up in the blood and causes high blood sugar. Untreated diabetes causes symptoms like extreme thirst or hunger, frequent need to urinate, and fatigue.

Why diabetes causes so many other health problems

Over time, high blood sugar seriously damages the eyes, kidneys, heart, gums, teeth, nerves, and blood vessels. This leads to health conditions like heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney disease, nerve problems, gum infections, and amputation.

People with diabetes are also more likely to have heart disease or a stroke, and at an earlier age.

5 top health conditions from diabetes complications

1. Heart disease

Heart diseases are more likely to occur in seniors with diabetes. Diabetes changes how the blood vessels in your muscles work. That can weaken your heart, your most important muscle. And if your body can’t use or get glucose and nutrients very well, your heart may have problems drawing enough energy.

Once you know which heart disease your older adult could potentially develop, you’ll be able to ask the doctor about symptoms to watch out for. And if you spot any of those signs, you’ll know to contact the doctor right away.

2. Alzheimer’s and dementia

Alzheimer’s and dementia are twice as likely to occur in patients with diabetes. Studies tie diabetes to proteins in your brain that are linked to dementia. Because of narrowed, hardened arteries, your chances of stroke are also higher. If you notice unusual behavior or persistent memory or cognitive problems, have your older adult visit their doctor for a full evaluation as soon as possible. Early diagnosis and proper treatment will improve quality of life.

3. Falls and fractures

Nerve damage (known as neuropathy) happens to almost everyone with diabetes. Diabetes and related conditions like gout can make getting around more difficult. That increases your older adult’s risk of falls and fractures.

Prevent falls by asking their doctor to regularly evaluate your senior’s fall risk and by making their home as fall-proof as possible

4. Vision

Diabetes is the top cause of blindness in American adults. One reason is diabetic retinopathy, which slowly destroys your light-sensitive retina and macula, which you need for good vision. Uncontrolled diabetes also can lead to glaucoma and cataracts. All those conditions can hurt your eyesight.

5.  Additional health complications of diabetes

Depression, hearing impairment, infections, and incontinence are additional medical conditions that are more likely to occur in people who have diabetes.

Your white blood cells are key parts of your immune system. But they can’t do their job right if they’re flooded with glucose. If you also have poor circulation, infections and wounds don’t heal as quickly.

6.  Multiple medications

Diabetic seniors often take 6 or more prescription medications. Because so many medicines are being used at the same time, your older adult will be at higher risk for negative side effects and drug interactions.  Immediately report any negative side effects and regularly ask their doctor to do a comprehensive review of all medications and supplements.

Be aware that these conditions may be related to diabetes. If you notice symptoms of any of these conditions, have your older adult visit the doctor right away.

Are you or a loved one struggling with falls, neuropathy, or memory impairment?  Is medication management becoming too difficult to manage alone?  Reach out to Transitions For Senior Living, we have a wide range of resources to keep you at home safely and help you set up a plan for future care needs, completely free of charge. Call Today!

Sharon Balleau, Senior Care Advisor — 314-606-8531
Carmen Worley, Senior Care Advisor — 314-960-0548