Brickmont Assisted Living Blog

Understanding and Managing Diabetes in Seniors

Posted by The Brickmont Assisted Living Team on Feb 15, 2021 8:00:00 AM | 7 minute read

Understanding and Managing Diabetes in Seniors

While diabetes is a worldwide health concern that doesn’t target based on age, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), around 25% of those 65 and older—an estimated 12 million—have diabetes.

In addition, if the current trends continue, some experts believe that the number of Americans who have diabetes will increase from about one in ten in 2015 to one in three by 2050. This will be in large part due to an increasingly older population—one that is more at risk for developing diabetes, but also due to a societal increase in other risk factors, such as obesity and a sedentary lifestyle

While these facts may be concerning, diabetes is a disease that can be managed and, in some cases, prevented. For this to happen, you have to not only understand the condition and how it is caused, but you also have to commit to living a healthy and active lifestyle.

Brickmont Assisted Living, with assisted living and memory care communities throughout Atlanta, Georgia, knows the importance of a healthy lifestyle. We are sharing some information regarding diabetes, including how it’s caused, common signs and symptoms, and how to manage it.

Understanding Diabetes

Though the numbers seem high, roughly 10% of the American population have been diagnosed with diabetes. While this low percentage seems encouraging, it tends to lead to a lack of overall public knowledge of the disease. 

Diabetes occurs when a person’s blood sugar is too high, leading to a sensitivity or lack of insulin production. Insulin is a hormone that is required to allow glucose to enter the cells and create energy. There are several forms of diabetes, but the two most common are type 1 and type 2. While both types are similar, they react very differently and can become present in different life stages.

Type 1 Diabetes, previously known as juvenile diabetes, is most commonly developed amongst children and adolescents but can occur in adults. In this form of diabetes, the pancreas creates little to no insulin, requiring daily insulin shots to help the body function properly. The causes of type 1 diabetes are not entirely known, but some experts believe genetics and environmental factors could be involved. Unfortunately, this type of diabetes cannot be prevented or cured, meaning that individuals with type 1 diabetes will require insulin injections for life. However, type 1 diabetes is much less common than type 2, with only 5-10% of people with diabetes having this type. 

Type 2 Diabetes (the more common form of diabetes) means that, while your body can produce insulin, it does not react or utilize the hormone properly. Type 2 diabetes can occur at any age, but it is most common in those 45 years old or older. It is also more prevalent in individuals who have elevated blood sugar levels, are physically inactive, or are overweight or obese. 

Though these two types are the most common, other forms of diabetes can occur under certain circumstances. For instance, gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that can occur during pregnancy. 

Signs and Symptoms of Diabetes

Both types of diabetes have some of the same warning signs and symptoms but manifest differently. For example, type 1 diabetes symptoms tend to come on quickly and be more severe, while the signs and symptoms of type 2 diabetes are much more subtle. So much so that you may go years without noticing any symptoms or not even have any symptoms at all. Because of this, it’s important to be familiar with the signs so that you can catch them as soon as they occur. 

Common Early Signs and Symptoms of Diabetes Include

  • Increased thirst and hunger—even if you have just eaten 
  • Urinating frequently, especially at night 
  • Blurry vision 
  • Extreme fatigue 
  • Losing weight without trying 
  • Sores, cuts, or bruises that are slow to heal 

Unfortunately, the symptoms of type 2 diabetes often go undetected, which can result in a myriad of complications, including: 

  • Kidney disease
  • Nerve and eye damage 
  • Heart disease and complication 
  • Foot complications 
  • Gum disease and tooth loss

Managing Diabetes Through a Healthy Lifestyle

Type 2 diabetes is a severe and long-term condition, especially for older adults. However, with a consistent, dedicated lifestyle of health and wellness, it can be managed, treated, and, depending on the cause, reversed. Here is a look at some lifestyle changes to make if you are living with type 2 diabetes. 

Get Physical 

Living an active lifestyle is one of the most critical steps in managing diabetes. Not only can regular exercise lower your glucose or blood sugar level, but it can also help you lose weight, a large factor in the cause of diabetes. 

Fortunately, you don’t need to become a triathlete to reap the health benefits of exercise. A brisk walk around your favorite park or a guided water aerobics class can increase your heart rate enough to help improve your insulin intake. As always, we encourage you to speak with your healthcare provider before starting any exercise regimen to ensure it is the best course of action.

Build a Diabetic-Friendly Diet

A crucial point of managing a diabetes diagnosis is to be aware of your diet. A diabetic diet should consist of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, fish, and beans; sugary and fried foods should be avoided to keep blood sugar levels low. The American Diabetes Association is a fantastic resource that can help you craft the perfect diabetic diet!


Due to certain medications and other factors, older adults with diabetes are at a higher risk of developing low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), making it crucial to monitor glucose levels. If you find yourself feeling dizzy, sweaty, or hungry, check your glucose levels and then eat or drink something high in sugar and carbohydrates (glucose tablets, fruit juice, hard candies, etc.). 

Schedule Annual Vision and Hearing Exams 

It’s natural for hearing and vision to decline with age, but diabetes can accelerate these concerns. It’s estimated that hearing loss is twice as common in those with diabetes than those without the disease. 

Diabetes can also lead to problems with the eyes, like blurry vision, glaucoma, and damaged blood vessels. Complications like these make it critical to get regular hearing tests and eye exams. 

Take Medications As Prescribed 

While some people with type 2 diabetes can manage their blood sugar levels through diet and exercise alone, many still need to take medication as well. To manage diabetes properly, it’s vital to take all medications as prescribed by a healthcare provider, and older adults must inform their doctor of all other medications they are on. 

Some people with diabetes may also have to monitor their blood glucose levels daily. This simple test can give you a better idea of where your glucose levels stand, and if you should switch up your diet or exercise routine. 

Check Your Feet

This may seem like an odd element of managing diabetes, but it’s critical in preventing serious complications. About half of all people with diabetes have some form of nerve damage, which can cause you to lose feeling in your feet, among other places. Because of this, it can be difficult to notice any cuts, bruises, burns, or other problems, which can lead to severe damage if left untreated. 

To keep your feet healthy and prevent complications, check them in the mirror every day. It’s also important to never go barefoot, keep toenails trimmed, and ask your doctor to look at them during every visit. 

Living Fully with Diabetes 

A diagnosis of diabetes, or even prediabetes, can often feel like a life sentence, especially if you are older. Yes, it is a challenging chronic condition, but it doesn’t have to define you. By practicing a healthier, more informed, and more active lifestyle, you can drastically improve your health, manage your diabetes, and prevent complications. In fact, some people find that a diabetes diagnosis encourages them to live life more fully and discover new passions!

At Brickmont Assisted Living, we are dedicated to providing resources about healthy living and healthy aging. Our assisted living and memory care communities throughout Atlanta, Georgia, encourage a healthy lifestyle by offering nutritious meals, socialization, and fitness classes. 

If you found this article useful, we encourage you to visit our Brickmont Assisted Living blog for more helpful information on senior health and wellness!

Updated on February 15, 2021

Topics: Health, Nutrition

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