Diabetes and ageing – Mistaken identities

By maxwell adeyemi

Diabetes can impact most systems in the body and even in some cases, accelerate aging process. With diabetes becoming more prevalent, our children for the first time in history, could have shorter life expectancy than their parents.

Researches have shown that diabetes will shorten life span of the person by a whopping 13 years; which means that the average 70 years that most person believe is the ideal life expectancy is drastically reduce to 57 years- due to diabetes and the effects on accelerating the aging process!!

Diabetes patients are twice as likely to develop age- related conditions before age 60.

Adults with diabetes develops geriatric ailments such as cognitive impairments, incontinence, dizziness and vision problems at a much faster rate than their non-diabetic peers.

The incidence and prevalence of diabetes increases much higher in the aged population;

A study on the prevalence of diabetes concluded that 7.5% of most population aged 25 and above are diabetic, 17.7% in 64- 70 age group and 23% in the 70 and above age group.. this study holds true for most population (even through the number of younger persons coming down with diabetes is also increasing drastically due to lifestyle and dietary issues).

More often than not the number of UNDIAGNOSED diabetes in the Aging Population is underestimated as "signs of aging" are often CONFUSED with the signs and symptoms of diabetes. So the diagnosis is often missed and ignored.

• Many older folks often have visual deterioration, needing glasses and other forms of treatments, but some are visual blurring/disturbances precipitating by diabetes and complications of diabetes.

• Frequent urination manifested as polyuria and nocturia in diabetes can be confused with urinary problems of aging like incontinence, and overactive bladder.

• As one aged, they become sluggish, unable to perform and be active as they were 10-20 yrs ago and complained of fatigue, sometimes the fatigue could be a warning sign of diabetes.

• Development of high blood pressure though increases as one age, however, diabetes does play a part in development of hypertension and the two often co-exist simultaneously

• Changes in gait- the development of gait changes and alteration in the mechanics of motion as one age can also be precipitated by complication of existing diabetes, diabetic nerve damage and diabetic foot deformities.

• Olderfolks often get restless, confused at times and have low cognition, these symptoms can be due to symptoms of low blood sugar(hypoglycemia), older folks may not have the "typical" symptoms of hypoglycemia, but they can get confused and restles because their ablity to sense low blood sugar is impaired due to blunting of their counter regulatory harmones that deteriorates with age.

Over 50% of diabetes cases go Undected in the eldely. The symptoms if any are often gradual in onsets, and commonly mistaken for signs of "Norml Aging" ad therefore ignored.

Also the elderly do have progressive metabolic abnormalities, worsening insulin resistance due to central obesity, their first phase insulin relase fter meal is impaired. They often have normal fasting blood sugar (which can bsleading) however their two-hour post prandial blood glucose is abnormal.

Since the prevalence of type 2 diabetes increases with age and it affects 18-20 % of people over ade 65, in addition to which 20-25% of persons over the age65, fit the criteria for prediabetes, it is imperitave that we increase our screening of this age group and not merely dismiss their symptoms as "aging process"

It is important to screen and diagnose diabetes appropriately in this age group so that adequate treatment intervention can be instituted to minimize the acceleration of aging process ascribed to diabetes.

• Poor control of glucose as seen in diabetes exacerbates the aging process, causes age related disease to develop earlier, makes co-morbid conditions worse and harder to manage

• Age related changes in carbohydrate metabolism also do have an impact on suga metabolism; there is poor hepatic glycogen reserve due to poor, erratic nutrition and decreased appetite and all these impact on the aging process.

Diabetes is also associated with greater risks of disabilities related to morbidity among elderly people. In addition to age , diabetes also play a causal role in development of cataract and retinopathy, all of which accelerates aging.

Diabetes also rapidly accelerates cognitive decline and doubles the overall risk of dementia.

This is achieved by the interaction between the diabetic related metabolic derangement and the structural and functional changes of aging.

The higher "glycated end products seen in diabetes do have negative effects on the brain, there is production of plaque, reduction in the volume of hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) was found to be associated with worsening cognitive function.

In view if the fact that aging symptoms can be easily confused with those of diabetes in the elderly, and the diagnosis is missed

Contact Dr.Maxwell

at 3631807 or

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Pressureandsugar said on Wednesday, Apr 18 at 10:19 AM

Wish I knew these things when I was young. Better late than never.

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Savita said on Monday, Apr 9 at 2:22 PM

This is very good information. Perhaps at the churches and community centres there could be an officer with responsibility for health education who could talk to people about health issues like diabetes and also look out for the senior citizens.

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Health Fanatic said on Saturday, Apr 7 at 9:19 AM

The situation with Diabetes is more serious than many of us think. It's timely that this article has been published at this time with some emphasis on World Health Day, today, April 7. The time has come for the Secretary for Health to convene a meeting with the TRHA leadership, heads of religious bodies, the school principals, the leadership at DEYAS, and whoever else to discuss the situation with Diabetes in the context of Wellness so that there could be an unprecedented education initiative culminating with World Diabetes Day.

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