Dangers and Complications of Diabetes

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Over the years, I’ve written about the dangers and complications of diabetes, but I recently came across some staggering figures from the U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention affecting the senior population. I know many seniors who are in the pre-diabetes stage, but many of them take it in stride and don’t seem to understand the consequences.

Here are the statistics that may be of concern to you:

  • Among U.S. residents aged 65 years and older, 10.9 million, or 26.9%,  had diabetes in 2010.
  • Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure, non-traumatic lower-limb amputations, and new cases of blindness among adults in the United States.
  • Diabetes is a major cause of heart disease and stroke.
  • Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States. Overall, the risk for death among people with diabetes is about twice that of people of similar age but without diabetes.

The estimated number of new cases in 2010 was also remarkable. For those between 45 to 54 it was 1,052,000 and for those 65 and over it was 390,000 making it a total of almost 1.5 million people. Medical expenses for people with diabetes are more than two times higher than for people without diabetes. People with diabetes are more susceptible to many other illnesses. Once they acquire these illnesses, they often have worse prognoses. For example, they are more likely to die with pneumonia or influenza than people who do not have diabetes.

People with diabetes aged 60 years or older are 2–3 times more likely to report an inability to walk one-quarter of a mile, climb stairs, or do housework compared with people without diabetes in the same age group. Diabetes is a lifestyle disease and can be reversed, but it takes a lot of work. If you need a partner to get started and hold you accountable, check out the Gracefully Age Program and grow out of being a diabetic statistic.

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Arthroscopic Knee Surgery

A couple of weeks ago, I had arthroscopic knee surgery because of a fall more than a dozen years ago. It was partially exploratory to determine the next step as well as to “clean it up.” The next two weeks will determine my options, but total knee replacement is not necessary.

In order to go through this surgery, I had to get a second opinion and while the second doctor determined that surgery is necessary, it was his opinion that a total knee replacement should be considered “just in case” I might need one down the road. On the other hand, my world-renowned knee specialist said you never replace anything that’s in good condition and basically, other than my knee cap, my knee is in very good condition. But the most important lesson in this is to prevent falls in the first place and to prevent arthritis from creeping in.

Fitness expert Sonia Gow, in a previous post, shared her expertise about why people fall. She mentioned that falls are not a normal part of aging.

Did you know that falls are a leading cause of hospital admissions for people over 65? For those over 65, one in three will experience a fall each year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 20 to 30 percent of the falls result in injuries such as lacerations, hip fractures, and head traumas with hospital bills averaging nearly $18,000 per patient.

According to Mary Tinetti, M.D., professor of internal medicine at the Yale School of Medicine, the more chronic health conditions you have, the more likely you are to suffer a fall.

  • Diabetes can worsen vision and desensitize nerves in the feet.
  • Depression can increase risk of falling.
  • Many medications cause dizziness and affect balance, especially sleep aids.

Other diseases causing a higher rate of falls include:

  • Circulatory disease
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Arthritis

Yoga and tai chi which has slow, rhythmic movements can help you with your balance. Don’t forget to strengthen your arms too since you can use them to steady yourself. Find a personal trainer or borrow/buy a DVD to help you.

Seniors and the Flu

docwizMonday’s issue of USA Today contained an article, “Drug-resistant Flu Strains Throw Dctors a Curve,” with some interesting statistics obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (www.cdc.gov). It stated that every year about 200,000 people get sent to the hospital and of that number, approximately 50% are over age 64. Furthermore, of the 36,000 that die each year from the flu, more than 90% are people over 64.

It is a known fact that the flu vaccine is an educated guess as to what strain of flu will hit for the season. This season, fortunately, the types of flu strains circulating are covered by the current vaccine.  (Type A: H1N1 and H3N2 and Type B) Next season’s vaccine will include the same Type A strains and a new Type B.

Drugs that are currently available target certain types of flu, but the problem is that most doctors don’t know which flu strain has infected their patients because the symptoms are the same. There is a viral culture that can be taken, but it takes about a week to obtain the results.

Here are the currently available drugs and what they target:

  • Tamiflu: H3N2 and type B only
  • Relenza: all three flu strains
  • Amantadine and rimantadine: H1N1 only

Tamiflu is relatively new and can be delivered in pill or liquid form. It can reduce the severity and duration of the flu and is also used for protection against the bird flu, but even some variants of the bird flu are beginning to show reduced sensitivity.

For most people, the flu vaccine is the best defense. Prescription drugs always have side effects, so particularly for the elderly that have other health problems, this could mean a risk for flu complications.

Bottom line … make sure you keep your immune system strong. In upcoming posts, I will cover different ways to do this. In the meantime, take care — spring is right around the corner!

PS – As a member of HiltonHonors, when I stay at a Hilton property, I get USA Today delivered to my door each weekday morning. I’m pretty loyal to the Hilton line. It’s one of the best rewards programs. Check it out at www.hiltonhhonors.com.