Diabetes mellitus is a group of diseases characterized by high levels of blood glucose (sugar) that result from defects in the way insulin is produced and used by the body. What this means is that when we eat food, it is turned into glucose for our bodies to use as energy. The pancreas then produces a hormone called insulin to help get the glucose into our cells. If a person is a diabetic, their body cannot make enough insulin or use the insulin that it does make as well as it could. This causes the glucose to build up in their body, resulting in a variety of serious and often life-threatening conditions.
Who Is Affected?
Diabetes occurs in every age group, from young children to the elderly. In adults over 65, nearly one in five have Type 2 diabetes. In this age group, there is a higher risk of diabetes for those people who are obese, have a family history of diabetes, are physically inactive or are African American or Hispanic/Latino American.
What Complications Are Caused By Diabetes?
Many of the chronic health conditions that affect older adults will either be brought on sooner by diabetes or become more serious health threats in people with diabetes. For example:
Heart Disease: Adults with diabetes have heart disease death rates that are two to four times higher than for those without the disease. In fact, heart disease is the leading cause of death among diabetics.
High Blood Pressure: Almost two out of every three people who have diabetes also have high blood pressure, which is a leading risk factor for stroke.
Stroke: The risk of having a stroke is two to four times higher for diabetics.
Kidney Disease: Diabetes accounts for approximately 40% of all deaths from kidney disease.
Amputation: The majority of all lower limb amputations in the U.S. are performed on people who have diabetes.
Erectile Dysfunction: Poor blood circulation and nerve damage can result in erectile dysfunction.
There are also many other ways that diabetes either causes or contributes to health problems. A person with uncontrolled diabetes is more susceptible to infectious diseases such as pneumonia or the flu. They often have trouble with sores that won’t heal and frequently lack the energy to enjoy their lives fully.
What are the warning signs?
If you suspect that you have diabetes or any disease, it is important to visit your doctor for a diagnosis.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, be sure to notify your doctor.
Where You Can Get the Care You Need
If you think you or someone you know has diabetes or any chronic condition, the first thing to do is to visit a doctor. After that, if you have diabetes, depending on your particular circumstances and needs, there are several programs that are designed to provide you with continuing health care services and support. These programs offer a coordinated care team of professionals that include nurses, dieticians, social workers and therapists, all working with your doctor to make sure you get the care you need. Listed below are a few of the kinds of programs available right here in your neighborhood, most of which accept Medicaid.
Adult Day Health Care: For older adults who are at home all day and would like to have an opportunity to socialize while being in a medically supervised environment, an Adult Day Health Care Program provides experienced professionals who can take care of daily health needs, including monitoring blood glucose levels and helping with medications.
Long Term Home Health Care: Designed for people whose medical condition makes it difficult for them to leave their homes. Home care provides a complete team of health care professionals that come directly to their home and provide care in accordance with an appropriate treatment plan as directed by their doctor.
Residential Facilities: Offering services to people who need either short term or long term 24-hour skilled nursing supervision, rehabilitation or help with daily living activities.
How to Control Your Diabetes
Remember that diabetes cannot be cured, but it can be controlled. The way to control diabetes is to keep your blood glucose level as close to normal as possible. There are five important things you can do to help to keep your blood glucose level normal.
See a doctor. This is the most important thing to do if you think you have diabetes. Only a doctor can accurately determine whether or not you have the disease and what is the best approach for treating it. If you don’t have a doctor, call us toll-free at 1-888-283-4223 and we’ll put you in touch with one right in your neighborhood.
Take your medication as prescribed. Whether it’s a pill or insulin injections, there are excellent medications available that, under the direction of a doctor, will do a lot to control the disease and prevent it from getting worse or causing serious complications.
Monitor your blood glucose level regularly. Whether you do it yourself or rely on health care professionals to do it for you, make sure it is checked regularly in order to maintain a healthy blood glucose level.
Watch what you eat. Eat regular meals. Skipping meals or not eating frequently enough can make your glucose level fall. A dietician can help you to develop a schedule of meals and snacks that is best for you. Eat a variety of foods, eat less fat, eat less sugar, eat less salt and drink less alcohol.
Be active. Physical activity can help you feel better, control your blood sugar and weight and even help prevent heart and circulatory problems. Simply walking or doing things you enjoy such as dancing or gardening can provide the activity you need to help control your diabetes. Always be sure to consult with your physician before increasing your activity level or starting any kind of exercise program.
*Information obtained from the Center for Disease Control, the National Institutes of Health and www.diabetes.com.