Glenn Ellis

*More people are living into their seventies, eighties, and nineties, yet diabetes is on the upswing in this population.

Diabetes is one of the top contributors to death in America today. Notice that I said America, not the world. We have skyrocketing diabetes rates among almost every segment of the population: women; men; children; and even the elderly.

Actually, what we can expect is that adults over the age of 60 will comprise 2/3 of diabetic population worldwide by 2025! And as usual, minorities will be disproportionately affected.

Large amounts of muscle fat or abdominal fat may put elderly men and women with normal body weight at risk for developing Type 2 diabetes. Even those not overweight may still be at risk for developing diabetes. An important factor in that risk is where their body fat is stored.

The prevalence of Type 2 diabetes is highest among men and women 65 and older, but the level of obesity in this group is only 14 percent, compared with 24 percent for people in their 50s. What this suggests is that obesity isn’t the only factor that causes diabetes or glucose intolerance in elderly men and women.

Fat distribution is also a key determination of those health issues in elderly people.

The effects of diabetes are tremendous no matter what age, but definitely as we age and the body doesn’t ”bounce back” from damage or stress quite as easily, putting diabetes on top of that just aggravates the problems.

Also, with the aging process, many people change their eating habits, because of the loss of teeth or dental problems; those problems can make it difficult to eat a well-balanced diet and stay healthy.

Here are some facts about the incidence of diabetes in seniors:

· Diabetes prevalence increases with age.

· Approximately half of all diabetes cases occur in people older than 55 years of age.

· The risk for type 2 diabetes increases with age. Nearly 20 percent of the United States population age 65 and older have diabetes ( 7 million people).

· People with diabetes represent 18 percent of all nursing home residents and tend to be younger than non-diabetic residents.

· Approximately 65 percent of people with diabetes will die of heart disease or stroke, and they are likely to die younger than people who do not have diabetes.

· Diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness in adults 20 to 74 years of age.

· People with diabetes who are over 65 years of age are twice as likely to be hospitalized for kidney infections compared with those without diabetes.

· About 60-70 percent of people with diabetes have mild to severe forms of diabetic nerve damage, which, in severe forms, can lead to lower limb amputations.

Now, before you start thinking the worst, there is hope: It is possible to prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes by reducing lifestyle risk factors through moderate weight loss and increased physical activity.

There are some specific areas of focus that are important to minimize the possibility of Diabetes plaguing your “golden years.

Carbohydrate in the food we eat has the greatest impact on our blood sugars. Diets high in complex carbs (such as vegetables, root crops, whole grains and fruit) provide healthy nutrition for a long healthy life without heart disease and cancer.

But with diabetes, carbohydrates must be balanced with insulin (whether it is injected or internally produced) or exercise to keep blood sugars normal. Balancing carbohydrates with insulin lets you keep your blood sugars controlled, and carbohydrate counting is an important tool for doing this.

I’m sure you hear talk of counting carbohydrates in your diet. Trust me; it can make a difference in what kind of health you will enjoy as you age.

Let me share with you a the 4 main complications that all diabetics are at risk for:

Kidney Disease:

Elevated blood sugar will cause elevated blood pressure. If a person has high blood pressure and diabetes, their risk of kidney disease is even greater. Continuing high blood pressure causes damage to the kidney’s filtration mechanisms, and they can eventually fail.

If the kidneys were not able to filter out the toxins and waste products, the person with diabetes would need either dialysis or a kidney transplant. The doctor should monitor kidney function with blood tests that are done during checkups.

Vision Loss or Blindness:

Diabetics are at greater risk of glaucoma and vascular disease, which can affect vision. This can lead to severe vision impairment or even blindness. Any blurred vision should be reported immediately to the doctor. Part of the diabetic yearly checkup should be an eye exam.

Peripheral Vascular Disease:

High blood sugar can cause blockage of the small blood vessels that supply the extremities with blood. This can cause nerve damage with a loss of sensation.

Add this to slower tissue repair and this makes diabetics more prone to infections and amputation of the extremities. Diabetics should never walk around barefoot. Even the smallest cut can cause problems.

Shoes that fit well, with absorbent socks are a must. Diabetics should see a professional for care of their nails. A visual inspection of their feet by the doctor should be done at every visit and by the diabetic every day.

Heart Disease and Stroke:

Diabetics are at much greater risk for heart disease and stroke. High levels of glucose can cause a build up of plaque in the arteries of the heart (arteriosclerosis) and other arteries. Arteriosclerosis can lead to heart attack and stroke.

By maintaining blood sugar at or near normal levels, along with exercise they can decrease that risk. I know it all seems so trivial, but look around your family, your neighborhood; your community; your world. How many people do you see who you think wished they had this information before now?

With diabetes becoming more prevalent, our children, for the first time in history, could have shorter life expectancies than their parents. This doesn’t have to be. On average, diabetes will shorten life expectancy for those over 50 years of age: 7.5 years (for diabetic men) to 8.2 years (for diabetic women).

But you don’t have to be “a statistic.”

A major study found five factors linked to surviving past 90:

•          Non-smokers were twice as likely to see 90 as smokers.

•          Diabetics had an 86% increase in a chance of death before 90.

•          Obese people had a 44% increase in the chance of death before age 90.

•          High blood pressure increased the death threats before 90 by 28%.

•          Exercise reduces death risk before 90 by 20 to 30% (depending on how much and how often you exercise).


Remember, I’m not a doctor. I just sound like one.

Take good care of yourself, and live the best life possible!

Glenn Ellis,  is a Health Advocacy Communications Specialist. He is the author of Which Doctor?, and is  a health columnist and radio commentator who lectures, and is an active media contributor nationally and internationally on health related topics.

His next book, “Information is the Best Medicine”, is due out Fall, 20111. Contact him via his website: