November marks American Diabetes Month, instituted by the American Diabetes Association (ADA) to promote awareness of the serious, even potentially life-threatening consequences of diabetes and acquired metabolic disorder.
A senior's lifestyle can be greatly impacted by a diabetes diagnosis. Regular finger-stick blood checks, insulin management and the administration of control medications can prove to be a full-time job. But given the increased risk of additional associated problems— like non-healing infections, neuropathy, hypertension, kidney failure, heart disease, heart attacks and strokes— these measures are necessary and life-saving.
So what diabetes facts must every senior know?
There is a wealth of free diabetes management and prevention information available online through the ADA, or through reputable health providers like the Mayo Clinic, and we would strongly recommend that you peruse them.
In the meantime, here are eleven quick hits to chew on:
1.) There are two types of diabetes. One— the most common type— is largely preventable.
Although juvenile diabetes, or Type I, is in most cases probably genetic in origin, Type II is an acquired form of diabetes. The pancreas, which makes the blood sugar-suppressing hormone insulin, becomes less able to keep up with chronically elevated blood sugar and begins losing its ability to compensate. As we age, it becomes even more important to eat right and stay in shape, as the body's metabolism becomes less efficient at dealing with elevated blood sugar.
2.) 86 million Americans have pre-diabetes and that number is projected to grow.
But it doesn't have to. Most pre-diabetic patients can reduce, or even eliminate, their risk of developing full diabetes symptoms simply by exercising more, eating moderate portions and sticking to fresh fruits, vegetables and lean meats, instead of eating highly-processed foods and sweets.
3.) 15 to 30 percent of pre-diabetics will develop full diabetes within 5 years.
That's why it's so important to get on top of symptoms early. Weight loss and exercise are not just a good idea— they're proactive, lifesaving measures.
4.) The percentage of Americans with pre-diabetic symptoms is approximately the same for most ethnic groups.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the percentage of U.S. adults with pre-diabetes is similar for non-Hispanic whites (35 percent), non-Hispanic blacks (39 percent), and Hispanics (38 percent).
5.) Some genetic groups are more predisposed to progress to full diabetes than others.
African-Americans, Native Americans, Asian-Americans and Latinos are more likely to develop full-blown Type II diabetes than individuals of other ethnicity. It is currently unknown whether this is due to genetic factors, socioeconomic or cultural barriers to good nutrition and wellness practices, or possibly both.
6.) Almost 30 million Americans have diabetes.
What's worse: about 1 in 4 of those individuals doesn't know he or she has diabetes.
7.) Diabetes is incredibly costly.
In 2012, diabetes and related illnesses and complications accounted for $245 billion in preventable medical expenditures, lost work and wages. That's up from an estimated $174 billion in 2007. Some health care experts have suggested unmanaged diabetes is the single biggest contributor to inefficiency and waste in the American health care system.
8.) The average annual out-of-pocket cost for an American patient with diabetes is almost $12,000.
With the advent of the Affordable Care Act and a shift toward consumer-driven health care, those out-of-pocket costs are expected to keep going up. In short, preventable health care costs like those associated with diabetes are bankrupting our national health care system, and as the government and health care providers try to prevent that from happening, the risk of those costs bankrupting more individuals is going to increase.
9.) The incidence rate of diabetes is increasing worldwide, but it is rising faster in Western, industrialized countries.
According to the World Health Organization, "total deaths from diabetes are projected to rise by more than 50% in the next 10 years. Most notably, they are projected to increase by over 80% in upper-middle income countries."
10.) Type II diabetes— the preventable kind— accounts for 90% of cases worldwide.
That's a staggering statistic. Countless lives could be saved if people would pay more attention to their own nutrition and wellness.
11.) Almost 10% of all emergency room visits for adults were related to complications of unmanaged or poorly-controlled diabetes in 2010.
Again, that number is expected to rise, without significant efforts on the part of individuals to hold themselves more accountable and prevent new-onset diabetes. Moreover, seniors account for over 43% of diabetes-related ER visits.
Diabetes is a serious, lifestyle-changing condition and is of particular concern for senior citizens.
Take steps today to become more active and to eat healthy, nutritious food in moderate proportions. Try to stick to a low sugar diet, even if you do not have diabetes or pre-diabetes. Avoiding glucose-heavy foods like sweets, soda and alcoholic beverages can help to prevent later development of those conditions. Your health may depend on it.