Diabetes, a chronic lifestyle disease, can affect people at any age. While people who have diabetes eventually learn how to manage their condition, for people who are above the age of 50, it can be a bit complicated to manage type 2 diabetes. In fact, as you get older, you will start noticing that you require more and more careful management of your condition. Strictly following your meal plan, your exercising routine, and your treatment plan will be a necessity for keeping your diabetes under control.
Let us take a look at some ways in which your diabetes changes after 50 and what you can do to look after yourself.
Ways In Which Your Diabetes Changes After 50
Your Symptoms Start to Change
If you have diabetes, then you will notice that as you get older, your symptoms may start to change. Sometimes, even completely. At the same time, with age, some of your diabetes symptoms can also get masked.
For example, if till now you are used to feeling thirsty every time your blood sugar levels spike, then over a period of time as you age, then you may start to lose your sense of thirst every time your blood sugar starts to get high. Or, you might notice that over the years you stop feeling any different with relation to your sense of thirst. (1)
This is why it is important to pay attention to your symptoms so that you are able to catch even the subtlest of changes in your symptoms. Also, if you experience any symptom or you notice any change in your symptoms, be sure to inform your doctor about the same immediately. Even the smallest change might be important when it comes to diabetes.
Risk of Cardiovascular Disease with Type 2 Diabetes
People who have type 2 diabetes and are over the age of 50 years have a much greater risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, and heart attack, as compared to younger people who have type 2 diabetes. Due to this, it is very important that you keep a close eye on your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Even without diabetes, you need to monitor your blood pressure and cholesterol levels to ensure that you remain in good health. High blood pressure or high cholesterol levels are known to be major risk factors for many chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, liver and kidney disease, and many others. (2)
There are many ways in which you can control your cholesterol and blood pressure levels. For example, lifestyle changes, healthy diet changes, regular exercise, and medications as well can help. If you have high blood pressure or cholesterol as well as type 2 diabetes, you should discuss your treatment and management options with your doctor.
Diabetics Over 50 Are More Prone To Severe Hypoglycemia
Hypoglycemia is a condition where your blood sugar levels fall. Low blood sugar levels are also one of the more serious side effects of your diabetes medications. (3)
The fact is that the risk of hypoglycemia goes up considerably with age. This is because the older you get, your kidneys are not able to function as well as they used to at removing the diabetes medications from your system.
Since your kidneys are not able to remove these medications from your system, these diabetes medications keep remaining in the body, working for a longer period of time than they are supposed to, leading to a drop in your blood sugar levels. Having kidney disease, taking several different types of medications, skipping your meals, and several other factors or conditions can also increase your risk of developing low blood sugar or hypoglycemia.
Some of the common symptoms of hypoglycemia include:
- Blurry vision
- Tingling sensation in your lips and mouth
If you are experiencing episodes of hypoglycemia, then you need to immediately consult your doctor about adjusting the dosage of your diabetes medications. In most cases, the dosage of these medications are lowered to allow for the medication to get removed from your body in a timely manner, thus preventing a fall in your blood glucose levels.
Difficulty in Losing Weight
For people who have type 2 diabetes and are over the age of 50, losing weight becomes a bit difficult as you start to age. This is because the cells of our body become more and more resistant to insulin as the body ages. This leads to easy weight gain, particularly around the stomach area. The body’s metabolism also starts to slow down. (4)
However, don’t worry. Just because you are over 50 with type 2 diabetes, this does not mean that losing weight is impossible. However, it will take a lot more hard work to lose those pounds. This is why you have to pay special attention to your diet. You will have to cut back down on those refined carbohydrates and maybe think about replacing them with fruits and vegetables, and whole grains.
It will help if you maintain a food journal. The key here is to remain consistent and also consult your doctor or a nutritionist or dietitian for coming up with a safe and effective plan for losing weight.
Type 2 Diabetes and Foot Care with Age
As you start to age, over a period of time, people with type 2 diabetes can start to experience nerve damage and also problems related to blood circulation. This can cause foot problems, especially diabetic foot ulcers. (5)
At the same time, diabetes also has a direct effect on the body’s ability to fight off infections.
So once you develop an ulcer on the foot, it can eventually become seriously infected as your body is unable to heal itself. If you don’t take proper care of your foot, then there is a potential that the foot ulcer can even lead to foot or leg amputation.
This is why as you get older, especially after the age of 50, foot care is extremely critical. It is important that you keep your feet dry, clean, and protect them from injury. So make sure that you wear comfortable and well-fitted shoes, that too with comfortable socks.
Frequently check your feet and in between your toes thoroughly and if you notice any red patches, blisters, or sores, you should contact your doctor right away.
Nerve Pain May Increase
The longer is the time you have been suffering from diabetes, the greater is the risk of developing nerve damage and pain. This condition is known as diabetic neuropathy. (6)
Diabetes can cause nerve damage to your hands and feet, a condition referred to as peripheral neuropathy. It can also affect the nerves that control the various organs in the body, known as autonomic neuropathy.
Symptoms of nerve damage and pain caused by diabetes include:
- Sensitivity of touch
- Loss of coordination or balance
- Tingling, numbness, or a burning sensation in the feet or hands
- Trouble swallowing
- Muscle weakness
- Erectile dysfunction
- Decreased or excessive sweating
- Vision trouble such as blurry vision or double vision
- Bladder problems such as urine incontinence (incomplete bladder emptying)
- If you experience any of these symptoms, especially after 50, you should immediately contact your doctor.
Diabetes is a chronic disease that can affect you from head to toes. So you will need to rely on your health care team of specialists to make sure that you remain healthy even if you have type 2 diabetes. Scheduling regular checkups with your doctors and make sure that you reduce your chance of diabetes complications by following a healthy lifestyle, a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and by following your treatment and medication plan diligently. While it is not possible to turn back the clock, but when you have type 2 diabetes, you can definitely put the control of your condition in your own hands.
- The Chemical Statistician. (2019). Why Does Diabetes Cause Excessive Urination and Thirst? A Lesson on Osmosis. [online] Available at: https://chemicalstatistician.
wordpress.com/2013/03/03/why- does-diabetes-cause-excessive- urination-and-thirst-a-lesson- on-osmosis/ [Accessed 12 Apr. 2019].
- Einarson, T.R., Acs, A., Ludwig, C. and Panton, U.H., 2018. Prevalence of cardiovascular disease in type 2 diabetes: a systematic literature review of scientific evidence from across the world in 2007–2017. Cardiovascular diabetology, 17(1), p.83.
- Lipska, K.J., Warton, E.M., Huang, E.S., Moffet, H.H., Inzucchi, S.E., Krumholz, H.M. and Karter, A.J., 2013. HbA1c and risk of severe hypoglycemia in type 2 diabetes: the Diabetes and Aging Study. Diabetes care, 36(11), pp.3535-3542.
- Franz, M.J., 2007. The dilemma of weight loss in diabetes. Diabetes spectrum, 20(3) pp.133-136.
- American Diabetes Association, 2003. Preventive foot care in people with diabetes. Diabetes Care, 26(suppl 1), pp.s78-s79.
- Schreiber, A.K., Nones, C.F., Reis, R.C., Chichorro, J.G. and Cunha, J.M., 2015. Diabetic neuropathic pain: physiopathology and treatment. World journal of diabetes, 6(3), p.432.
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