More than 25 percent of Americans 65 or older have diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. Itâ€™s the seventh-leading cause of death in the United States.
â€śType 2 diabetes is really an epidemic. We are talking about people being diagnosed in their 40s, and thatâ€™s still a lot of life to live and complications that can arise,â€ť said Jennifer Beery, a registered dietician with Horizon West Nutritional Services in Orlando.
Those complications include heart disease, kidney disease, blindness and even limb amputation if diabetic conditions are not managed correctly.
â€śThereâ€™s also the financial impact of diabetes that manifests in costs for treatments, medications and hospitalizations, as well as lower productivity and lost work time,â€ť Beery said.
Type 2 diabetes has a genetic predisposition but can also be influenced by unhealthy weight, lack of exercise, smoking and other lifestyle factors.
For people with diabetes, proper management of the condition can make a world of difference in quality of life.
â€śDiabetes is a chronic disease but, along with the prescribed monitoring and medications, can be managed with consuming regular, balanced meals and healthy between-meal snacks daily to maintain healthy glucose levels,â€ť Beery said. â€śSimple ways to get active help, too. Taking a 10-minute walk in the morning and evening, and then doing things like yard work, can help manage symptoms and improve health with type 2 diabetes.â€ť
Summer Spires is a diabetes education dietitian in Tampa who works specifically with people managing Type 2 diabetes. Spires says she first recommends a diabetes self-management education course that typically takes a year to complete and is covered by most insurance plans. This training helps Type 2 diabetics learn how to manage the condition and learn how to prevent other complications.
â€śFactors that people with Type 2 diabetes should consider on a daily basis include healthy eating, being active, monitoring blood sugars with use of a glucometer and taking medication,â€ť Spires said.
Problem solving is also a skill that all diabetics must learn in order to keep blood sugar stab, Spires says, as well as getting the proper vaccinations to reduce risk of complications and infections.
â€śThere is also the importance of having support to cope emotionally with this very complex, chronic condition,â€ť Spires said. â€śManaging diabetes is very complex and highly individualized. One person may need to focus on diet while another may need better medication management.â€ť
Spires says that even with a diabetes diagnosis, diet and exercise can potentially manage blood sugars alone. It is not possible to completely reverse, or cure, diabetes, however.
â€śBeta cells on the pancreas produce insulin which is a hormone that allows the cells in our bodies to take up glucose or blood sugar. Once diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, about 50 percent of the beta cells on the pancreas are no longer working,â€ť Spires said.
The ADA publishes an annual Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes guideline that is used by health-care professionals worldwide. The ADAâ€™s Living with Diabetes section on its website includes tools, programs and other resources for people living with diabetes. The ADA offers two tracks that people can sign up for on the website, based on diagnosis of Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. All resources are free to access.
A diabetes risk test is available at the American Diabetes Association at www.diabetes.org.
For those who have not been diagnosed but are at risk for Type 2 diabetes, prevention is key.
â€śKnow your risks. If you have a family member with diabetes, get checked at least annually and try to adopt a healthy lifestyle through better diet and increased physical activity of at least 150 minutes per week,â€ť Beery said. â€śQuit smoking. There are free resources available through www.tobaccofreeflorida.com.â€ť