Type 2 Diabetes and Aging: What You Need to Know

When you become older, there are some conditions that you need to begin to worry about more, such as type 2 diabetes.

For people who have not been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes but who struggle with weight problems or prediabetes, age can make a big difference in diagnosis. However, age is also an important factor for someone already struggling to manage his or her diabetes.

Higher Risk of Type 2 as You Age

Research has shown that the risk of developing type 2 diabetes increases with age. One reason for this is because as we age, we tend to gain weight and become more sedentary. However, there may be another factor at play besides weight gain and lack of exercise. Recent research conducted by the Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., examines the role of beta cells and the pancreas, and their relation to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes in the elderly. This study specifically looks at the decline in production of beta cells in the pancreas that comes with age.

These cells store and release insulin, and they are essential to helping our body process this hormone. Researchers at Vanderbilt speculate that with age, these beta cells no longer reproduce at the same rate, and that they also experience apoptosis (cell death) at a higher rate as we age. Researchers say that one of the reasons this might occur is because the body is unable to process key nutrients such as potassium and calcium, which are key to beta cells. This could also be due to the fact that most organs lose their regenerative capacity with age. The study concludes that more research must be conducted before any treatments that address these issues can become a reality.

Type 2 Diabetes Management as You Age

If you have already been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, you may have noticed that there have been changes in the way you manage your condition. Perhaps before you were able to keep your diabetes under control through diet and exercise, but now it is not so easy. As previously mentioned, this is because the pancreas changes with age and is unable to process insulin like it did when you were young. For this reason, many people who did not need diabetes medication before may need to resort to it as they age.

As you age, these medicines may begin to pose new problems for you, or they may not be enough to keep your blood sugar levels normal. This can be especially serious if you already struggle with kidney problems. When this occurs, you may need to begin insulin therapy. However, there are many options that can make taking insulin easy. One example is an insulin pen, which is pre-filled with insulin and makes it easier to give yourself a dose.

You may also find it harder to detect low blood sugar levels. When you were young, feeling shaky and weak might have been a sign of low blood sugar, but with age these symptoms may not be enough to go by. As we age, we are prone to becoming more fatigued, weak and dizzy. If you begin to feel as though you are no longer able to gauge your diabetes, start keeping a log of your blood sugar levels and symptoms. If you feel you are having trouble managing your blood sugar levels, do not hesitate to talk to your doctor.

Sources: UWHealth.org, FightAging.org

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