Diabetes is a serious life-long health condition that occurs when the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood is too high because the body can’t use it properly. If left untreated, high blood glucose levels can cause serious health complications like stroke, kidney failure, blindness or amputation.
There are two main types of diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2. They’re different conditions, caused by different things, but they are both serious and need to be treated and managed properly.
The below illustration from Diabetes UK is a basic explanation of what happens...
If you have any symptoms of diabetes, you should contact your GP or family doctor. You can also go into your nearest public health centre. Having symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean you have diabetes, but it’s worth checking – early diagnosis, treatment and good control are vital for good health and can reduce the chances of developing serious complications.
STEP 5: HEALTHCARE CHECKS TO DO EACH YEAR IF YOU HAVE DIABETES
1. Get your blood glucose levels measured (HbA1c blood test)
2. Have your blood pressure measured
3. Have your blood fats measured
4. Have your eyes screened for signs of retinopathy
5. Have your feet and legs checked: The skin, circulation and nerve supply of your feet and legs should be examined at least once a year, normally by your GP or nurse, but also if problems arise or if you are admitted to hospital. You should be told if you are at risk of foot problems, how serious they are and if you need to be referred to a specialist podiatrist or foot clinic.
6. Have your kidney function monitored: You should have two tests to measure your kidney function every year: a urine test for protein (a sign of possible kidney problems) and a blood test to measure kidney function.
7. Get ongoing, individual dietary advice (from a private dietitian or a health centre nutrition advisor)
8. Get emotional and psychological support: Diabetes can be hard, whether you’ve just been diagnosed or have lived with the condition for years. It’s important that you are able to talk about your issues and concerns with your doctor, dietitian, nurse or a therapist so that they can support and advise you in the right way. You can also look for local support groups.
9. Access a local education course (look for a local Diabetes Association or a trained Diabetes advisor)
10. See specialist healthcare professionals: Diabetes affects different parts of the body and you should be referred to specialist professionals when needed, such as a dietitian, ophthalmologist (eye doctor), pharmacist or podiatrist (foot doctor).
11. If you smoke, get support to quit: Diabetes increases your risk of heart disease and stroke, and smoking further increases this risk.
STEP 6: MANAGING DAILY LIFE (FOR PERSONS 65+ WITH DIABETES)
In some cases dietary advice for an older person with diabetes may differ from general recommendations. Older people in care homes are often more likely to be underweight than overweight and there is a high rate of under-nutrition. It may not always be appropriate to reduce the fat, salt and sugar for every older person with diabetes.
Poor oral health, effects of some drugs on the digestive system, limited mobility, dexterity or vision can all cause discomfort associated with eating. Fluid intake is often lower in older people which can cause dehydration, particularly during bouts of illness. People at risk should have a nutritional assessment and individual advice from a dietitian to address areas of concern such as needing extra calories, meal supplements and replacements, weight reduction, low salt diet or manageable foods.
Keeping active in later life helps to strengthen muscles, maintain mobility and balance and improves insulin sensitivity. It can help you to continue to self-care, can improve your mental well-being and prevent falls. You can aim to be as active as you are able.
Older people, including those with frailty, have been shown to benefit from light resistance and balance training. Exercise to build limb strength and flexibility for those who are housebound and confined to a bed or chair can be taught by a physiotherapist and supported by carers. Remember to check with your doctor before starting any new exercise.