Type 2 diabetes is a serious and chronic illness that impacts millions of people in the United States. It occurs when the body cannot effectively use sugar, causing it to build up in the blood.
The inability to use sugar can be because the body does not use insulin as it should or because it doesn’t produce enough insulin. Because the disease is so common, it’s important that family caregivers know what puts older adults at higher risk for developing the disease and be able to recognize its symptoms.
Type 2 Diabetes Risk Factors
There are many things that can make it more likely your older family member will develop diabetes. Fortunately, the biggest risk factors are things that can be changed by following a healthier lifestyle. Some risk factors for diabetes are:
Weight: One of the top risk factors for type 2 diabetes is being overweight or obese. However, it’s important to note that people who are not overweight can also get diabetes.
Lack of Exercise: Being physically active helps the body to use up sugar as fuel for energy. It also helps with achieving and maintaining a healthy weight.
Family History and Race: People who have a close relative with diabetes are more likely to get it themselves. In addition, if your aging relative is African American, Hispanic, Native American, or Asian American, they are at higher risk than people who are Caucasian.
Age: Getting older increases the risk. Experts believe this may be in part because people tend to exercise less after the age of 45, which causes them to lose muscle and gain weight.
Signs of Type 2 Diabetes
When diabetes first starts, your aging relative may not notice the symptoms. The disease develops slowly, so it’s possible to have it for years without knowing. A few symptoms you can watch for are:
Being Thirstier Than Normal: High blood sugar makes the kidneys work harder, which draws fluids from the body’s tissues. This causes the senior to need to drink more to keep up with the body’s demands for liquids.
Increased Hunger: Diabetes stops sugar from entering cells, so they don’t have the fuel they need. This can cause the body to trigger feelings of hunger in an attempt to get the energy it needs.
Urinating Often: Because the kidneys are working harder, the senior will urinate more.
Elderly care providers can help seniors to live a healthier lifestyle that can help them to prevent diabetes.
Elderly care providers can prepare healthy meals that promote weight loss and increase overall health. They can also encourage an increase in physical activity by taking walks with the older adult, monitoring them while they exercise at home, or driving them to an exercise facility.