Did you know that more than 1.8 million Australian’s are living with diabetes, and that on average, 280 people are diagnosed daily in Australia? That’s why we wanted to write an article with some tips for managing your diabetes as you age.
Many areas of care for people with diabetes can be relevant to every age group impacted. However, there are certain changes that happen due to growing older which can affect your diabetes.
If you or someone close to you has been diagnosed, it’s important to do your research. This will help you manage your diabetes.
We thought we would share some information to help you understand diabetes and how it can impact your life or the life of someone you love who lives with the condition.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a disease that occurs when a person’s body can’t maintain healthy glucose levels in the blood. Glucose is a form of sugar that is the main energy source for us. For our bodies to function properly, we need to convert the glucose from foods into energy. In doing this, ‘insulin’ is essential to convert glucose into energy. For people living with diabetes, either the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin or the body is unable to effectively use the what is produced by the pancreas.
There are three main types of diabetes: type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes. It is important to note that diabetes that anyone can develop diabetes at any time in their life.
What health conditions could develop for someone with diabetes?
All forms of diabetes can be managed and how to do this will be dependent on your needs, health and body. That’s why it’s important to have a strong health care team that you trust and to regularly consult them. For all types of diabetes, keeping your blood glucose levels in a healthy range will help prevent complications.
If you don’t manage your diabetes, some serious health conditions could arise. So it’s important to work with your health team and get to know your body and its triggers. There are some health conditions that have been known to be associated with diabetes. These include: heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, limb amputation, depression, anxiety, and blindness.
What is type 1 diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes is a condition in which means the person’s immune system is activated and destroys the cells in their pancreas. With type 1 diabetes a person’s pancreas produces little or no insulin. So instead the job of the pancreas needs to be done manually. This can be done through insulin injections or an insulin pump and this then helps reduce the level of glucose in the blood.
Unfortunately, type 1 diabetes is not curable and cannot be prevented but it can though be managed.
Type 1 diabetes can be managed with:
- Following a healthy diet and eating plan.
- Insulin replacement through insulin injections and/or using an insulin pump.
- Monitoring your blood glucose levels. You can do this through use of a Continuous Glucose Monitoring System. The Australian Government has recently subsidised these through the National Diabetes Services Scheme. You can find more on this here: https://www.diabetesaustralia.com.au/living-with-diabetes/managing-your-diabetes/diabetes-technology/continuous-glucose-monitoring/
- Regular exercise.
Type 1, represents roughly 10% of all people who live with diabetes and the cause of this type of diabetes is not yet known.
What is type 2 diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes represents 85-90% of all cases of diabetes. It is a progressive condition and develops over times. Gradually the body loses the capacity to produce enough insulin, or the insulin no longer works effectively anymore. With type 2 diabetes, your pancreas is still working but not as effectively as it used to.
Type 2 diabetes is heavily associated with lifestyle factors, so some people may be able to slow the condition through diet changes and exercising regularly to keep a healthy weight. Some initial management options for type 2 diabetes include:
- Eating a wholesome and healthy diet to manage your weight and blood glucose levels.
- Exercising to help the insulin in your body work more effectively. It can also help lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk of heart disease.
- Regular blood glucose monitoring.
The danger is that many people do not know they are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. If you’d like to calculate your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, head to https://www.diabetesaustralia.com.au/risk-calculator
What is Gestational diabetes?
During pregnancy, Gestational diabetes can be diagnosed. It is the fastest-growing type of diabetes in Australia and affects thousands of pregnant women. But, most women will no longer have gestational diabetes after the baby is born.
What are the impacts of diabetes as you age?
Diabetes impacts a lot of older people. Type 2 in particular, occurs most often in middle-age and older adults. It’s important to manage your diabetes as you age, because it can be the cause of serious health problems.
People with diabetes could have an increased risk of falls and injury. Low blood sugar levels or balance changes from neuropathy can make you more likely to have a fall. This is why it’s important to manage your diabetes and check in with your health team regularly to ensure you have the support you need.
Tips for managing diabetes as you age.
- Medication management. Ensure any medications you are taking for other health conditions don’t negatively interact with your diabetes management plan. If you are introducing any new medications, check in with your health team first.
- Move more. As we get older, we often have health limitations that reduce how often we get active. But try to move as often as you can, because this helps manage your diabetes and keep you healthy.
- Learn as much as you can about diabetes. Whether it be through education classes, websites, or medical professionals, knowledge is key. Encourage your loved ones and carers to check out resources you’ve found helpful. Having an educated team to support you, will help you face the disease together.
- Eat healthy. It may even help to see a registered dietician or nutritionist who can support you with building a healthy meal plan.
- Seek support from your loved ones or carers. Reaching out to those around you for assistance with managing your diabetes is important. Living with diabetes can feel isolating at times, but you’re definitely not alone. Chatting to your loved ones or even a support worker about what you’re going through can help release emotions you feel. It will also empower those around you to feel aware of what is going on and what they can do to better support you. You could also try reaching out to support groups either in person or on social media.
What are some helpful resources for managing your diabetes?
We hope this post has been helpful, as always if you have any concerns please reach out to your medical professional.