Dealing With Diabetes

Both average life expectancy and the prevalence of diabetes are continuing to rise.

For seniors, type 2 diabetes is a growing problem, and a larger proportion of newly diagnosed diabetics are older in age. Treating and diagnosing diabetes amongst the elderly can be a challenge. Since April is National Defeat Diabetes Month, let’s look at how this impacts seniors specifically.

So, what are some differences in diagnosing diabetes among the elderly when compared to diabetes in the young?

1. Elderly people who are at risk of developing diabetes, or who have already developed the disease, may not exhibit the classic symptoms expected.

2. Age-related changes can mean that some symptoms will be masked, or harder to spot.

All diabetes complications can occur amongst older patients. Cognitive complications are more common amongst the elderly. Further problems may include pre-existing or co-existing health problems. Many elderly diabetic patients are pre-disposed to hypoglycemia. Understanding diabetes is an important step. Education, of both the patient and caregiver, can be important in recognizing warning signs before a crisis occurs.

According to the American Diabetes Association, “Diabetes is a common disease, yet every individual needs unique care. We encourage people with diabetes and their families to learn as much as possible about the latest medical therapies and approaches, as well as healthy lifestyle choices. Good communication with a team of experts can help you feel in control and respond to changing needs.” It is important to have regular checkups with your primary care physician and communicate any concerns. Dealing with diabetes will be so much easier when you have a team approach.

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Check It Out

I spend more time than I would like to at hospitals and clinics.  I guess it is just part of the job.  But last week I had to go for a visit for my own health.  It was time for my annual mammogram.  Now my tween-age daughter might say this is “TMI” or too much information.  But I think…that this is actually the opposite.  I think it is necessary for us to discuss important health issues at any age.  And being informed and keeping the lines of communication open regarding breast health should be a priority.

According to Harvard’s Women’s Health Watch, half of newly diagnosed women with breast cancer are over 60, and more than a fifth are over 70. Although the risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer increases with age, the chance of dying from it declines steadily. “Women who have lived to an advanced age do very well when treated for breast cancer,” says Dr. Hal Burstein, senior physician and breast cancer specialist at Harvard-affiliated Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

But the path to early detection and effective treatment isn’t always clear for older women; once you’ve reached 75, there is no hard-and-fast schedule for screening or protocol for treatment. Instead, how often you should get a mammogram or the kind of treatment you undergo for early breast cancer is a decision for you to make with your doctor.

What are the risk factors?

The Mayo Clinic and National Cancer Institute list these primary risk factors:

  • Age
  • Chest radiation as a child
  • Start of menarche before the age of 12
  • Adolescent weight gain
  • No pregnancy or late pregnancy (after 30)
  • Lengthy use of oral contraceptives
  • Post-menopausal weight gain
  • Late menopause (after age of 50)
  • Increased breast tissue density

It is important to keep your appointments for all regular checkups for women and men of all ages.  What may be uncomfortable or inconvenient for a day can save your life.

You can find more information at http://www.cancer.org