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Wayne State University

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Nov 5 / Cheryl Deep

Diabetes Month: Focus on Care Not Scare

Cheryl Freep

Living with diabetes means dealing with several scary statistics. Older adults with diabetes are at increased risk of heart and vision problems, kidney disease, and vascular changes that can damage limbs. Diabetes is also on the rise: more than 25% of US citizens age 65 or older have it, with the highest rates in African Americans and Hispanics.

There is a positive side to the diabetes coin, though. This disease is very treatable. With the right medications and a commitment to diet and lifestyle changes, damage from diabetes can be reduced or eliminated, and sometimes diabetes can even be reversed.

You Make All the Difference

The goal is to keep blood glucose levels as close to normal as safely possible to reduce the risk of major complications. You must be vigilant to achieve this. Low blood glucose can make you feel weak, confused, irritable, hungry, or tired. You may sweat a lot or get a headache. You may feel shaky. If your blood glucose drops lower, you could pass out or have a seizure. High blood glucose can make you very thirsty and tired, blur your vision, and cause frequent urination. You may also feel sick to your stomach.

Healthy eating, regular exercise, maintaining good blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and testing glucose levels are the tools to control diabetes. Some people may also require insulin pills or injections to control blood glucose. You should monitor blood glucose levels daily, and have an A1C laboratory test several times a year. The A1C determines your average blood glucose level over the past 2 to 3 months, an indicator of how well your body is being protected from diabetes damage.

Support from a Team of Experts

A team of medical specialists can provide whole-patient care for your diabetes:

• a primary care physician
• an endocrinologist (specialize in diabetes care)
• a certified diabetes educator (often a nurse or dietitian) to teach meal and lifestyle changes
• a podiatrist to care for your feet, since they are vulnerable to diabetes’ effects
• and an ophthalmologist for eye care

As the person with diabetes, you are the captain of your health care team. Your self-care and attention to symptoms can take the scare out of diabetes. Make the effort to control your diabetes, and you lessen the chance that diabetes will control you.

The Institute of Gerontology offers free learning workshops throughout the year on diabetes, hypertension and other health issues of special concern to older adults. Visit the calendar at iog.wayne.edu for details.

Cheryl Deep, MA is the Director of Media Relations and Communications at the IOG, visit her profile here.

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