Type 2 diabetes growing amongst elderly

Research by the Society for Endocrinology, Metabolism and Diabetes ( has shown that among the elder generation (over 65), type 2 diabetes is a growing problem, with 28.7% of the elderly population being affected and the numbers growing every year. Many people with diabetes are unaware they have the condition and may go years before they are diagnosed. This can be especially true for seniors, whose symptoms can be less apparent, overlooked as 'normal aging' or not apparent at all.
Type 2 diabetes growing amongst elderly
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Managing diabetes is not easy, whether you are young or old. This is owing to the fact that the disease requires a lifestyle change, and it is always difficult to change your lifestyle in any way - more so if you have done things in a particular way for many years. Medical solutions provider Medtronic understands that managing diabetes is important, but not always easy. The company is focused on designing new technologies that will make management of the disease simpler, and assist those suffering from diabetes to live a normal, happy and healthy lifestyle.

World Diabetes Day was on 14 November 2013 and with this in mind we are highlighting the plight of diabetes in South Africa, who it affects and how technology and innovation are helping.

"Managing the disease wellcan go a long way to ensuring a healthier life in elderly diabetics. Uncontrolled blood glucose levels compound conditions such as high blood pressure, circulatory disorders, heart problems and eye problems - conditions often found in the elderly," explains Carel van Tonder, Business Unit Manager: Diabetes Medtronic Africa.

According to the International Diabetes Federation (, there were 1,978,250 reported cases of diabetes in South Africa in 2012,and there is still a larger number of people who are living undiagnosed, many of those being elderly persons. Globally, the Federation estimates that one in 10 of the world's population will have diabetes by 2035 and that people living with diabetes will surge from 382 million to 592 million people by 2035, many in low and middle income countries and the majority under 60 years of age.

Amongst the elderly population, type 2 diabetes is becoming more prevalent. Over time it can cause problems like heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, blindness, nerve damage, and circulation problems that may lead to amputation. According to the US National Institute of Aging, (, people with type 2 diabetes also have a greater risk for Alzheimer's disease and are pre-disposed to hypoglycemia. Elderly people who are at risk of developing diabetes, or who have already developed the disease, may not exhibit the classic symptoms expected and this can make diagnosis difficult and age-related changes can mean that some symptoms will also be masked, or harder to spot.

Type 2 diabetes growing amongst elderly
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Treating diabetes amongst the elderly can present unique challenges too. Other disabilities associated with aging can contribute to the complexity of strictly self-managing diabetes such as impaired physical functioning and cognitive impairment. Elderly people are often more frail and susceptible to illness. This can mean diabetes-related complications are more common and harder to manage. Furthermore, exercise and adapting to a diet can be more difficult for elderly people, and problems can arise in these areas.

However, there will come a time when those suffering from diabetes will be able to live a lifestyle much closer to normal which will include not having to worry about overnight hypoglycemia and knowing that their pump will look after them when they need it most. This technology is almost here. Medtronic, a global leader in diabetes research and management, has taken another step towards the artificial pancreas, with the release of its Low Glucose Suspend automated insulin pump feature within the ParadigmVeo integrated system.

This first-of-its-kind automated insulin pump automatically suspends insulin delivery temporarily when sensor glucose values reach a pre-set low level. The ASPIRE In-house Study results published in the New England Journal of Medicine and presented at the American Diabetes Association (ADA) 73rd Scientific Sessions, report that using an automatic suspensionof insulin feature with the sensor-augmented insulin pump from Medtronic, Inc. (NYSE: MDT) safely reduces nocturnal hypoglycemia without affecting glycated hemoglobin level (HbA1C). Medtronic's Low Glucose Suspend feature is the first-of-its-kind automated insulin pump.

Dr JC van Dyk, Paediatric Endocrinologist at Little Company of Mary Hospital in Pretoria, South Africa, believes that one of the biggest concerns in the diabetes community is blood sugar levels during sleep. "Hypoglycemia can be catastrophic for people with diabetes, especially at night when patients are likely to be unaware of symptoms because they are asleep. This data is therefore very important because it provides strong evidence that sensor-augmented insulin pump therapy with an automated insulin shut off feature can reduce hypoglycemia at home - and it can do it safely, without increasing the patients' risk for long-term complications by raising their HbA1Clevels."

There are severaladditional ways recommended by doctors that can assist the elderly to manage their diagnosis. These include making healthy food choices by learning how different foods affect glucose levels. Getting daily exercise can help improve glucose levels in older people with diabetes. Have yearly eye exams.Check your kidneys yearly. Get flu shots every year and the pneumonia vaccine to keep you healthy. Check your cholesterol as high levels may increase your risk for heart problems. Care for your teeth and gums.Find out your average blood glucose level by getting a blood test called the A1C test. Protect your skin and watch your blood pressure. Besides healthcare advice and good diabetes management, it's good to know that diabetes is one of the best-funded diseases in terms of research, innovation and technology, and every year new products are introduced to make the life of a diabetes sufferer easier and more manageable.

"The effective management of diabetes is something Medtronic is passionate about. We are focused on making life for those suffering with diabetes, including the elderly, a simple process and we believe this therapy does just that," concludes Carel van Tonder, Medtronic Africa.

15 Apr 2014 15:28