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How Does Diabetes Affect Seniors?

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Healthy aging is more than just finding a place to live that helps keep you active and provides healthy meals. Of course, these things are important. But it’s also important for a senior to see their doctor regularly and have the support of experienced caregivers because the risk of certain diseases can increase with age—diabetes is one example.

Diabetes can cause all sorts of problems throughout a senior’s body, such as with their heart, vision, and imbalanced blood sugar levels. Fortunately, with the right knowledge, tools, and support, diabetes is not usually difficult to manage.

Depending on the type of diabetes, making lifestyle changes could be enough to manage it. Other times a senior may need help from their caregivers. It may be worth considering the type of caregiver support an older adult may need if they have an increased risk of developing diabetes—even if they haven’t by the time they retire.

What Is Diabetes?

Our body breaks down the food we eat into glucose (sugar) and releases it into our bloodstream. When this happens your pancreas is signaled to release insulin. The insulin allows the sugar to pass from your bloodstream into your cells where it’s used as energy.

Diabetes is a chronic condition that affects your body’s ability to do this properly. Either your pancreas doesn’t produce insulin, or your cells don’t react to the insulin. This leads to an increase of sugar in your blood that can cause problems, which we discuss below.

Types of Diabetes

There are 2 primary types of diabetes with a third subtype:

Type 1

Type 1 diabetes is the least common type, affecting only 5% to 10% who have diabetes. It’s typically diagnosed in children, youth, and young adults with no known prevention. Researchers think it’s caused by an autoimmune reaction that stops your body from making insulin. People with type 1 diabetes must take insulin every day to stay healthy. 

Type 2

Type 2 diabetes is much more common and isn’t necessarily connected to how much insulin your body produces. Instead, it’s related to how your cells react to insulin, which leads to unstable blood sugar levels. Maintaining a healthy weight, staying active, and eating a healthy, balanced diet are 3 ways you can reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.


Gestational diabetes is a form of type 2 diabetes that some mothers develop while pregnant. It typically resolves itself after the pregnancy. But this can put the baby at an increased risk of health complications, and it increases the mother’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes later on.

Managing Diabetes as a Senior

Diabetes isn’t one of those diseases you can take a pill for and carry on with your day. It takes a conscious choice to make healthy choices and do the things your body needs. Your doctor can develop a plan for you to ensure your diabetes is properly managed. But a few of the key considerations for managing the disease include:

  • Taking insulin every day (type 1 diabetes)
  • Eating a healthy, balanced diet that naturally helps balance your blood sugar levels
  • Daily exercises, such as walking, swimming, or fitness classes
  • Tracking your glucose levels to ensure you’re taking the proper precautions.

How Does Diabetes Affect Seniors?

It’s important to understand how diabetes can affect your body. If for nothing else, too understand the risks so you can make healthy choices as you age.


Many people are familiar with age-related eye conditions, such as glaucoma or cataracts. But another eye disease that can cause permanent vision loss is diabetic retinopathy. This is a disease that diabetes can cause, and the risk of developing it increases with age.


One significant way that diabetes can affect your heart is through damaged blood vessels from high blood sugar levels. Other conditions that can affect your heart health, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and high triglycerides, are more common in people with diabetes too.

Blood Sugar Levels

Blood sugars need to be within an optimal range, just like many things in our bodies—neither too high nor too low is better than the other. Average ranges are typically 80 to 130 mg/dL before a meal and less than 180 mg/dL 2 hours after the start of your meal. Keeping track of these levels is an important part of living a healthy life with diabetes.

A senior man with a cane smiles and laughs with a nurse and other seniors.

Find a Community Who Can Support Your Medical Needs

Managing diabetes isn’t an impossible task. But as we age even simple tasks can become more difficult. So, planning your retirement in a community where you’ll receive support in ensuring you can keep up on things, such as monitoring blood sugar levels and taking medications or eating a healthy diet is important.If you’re considering retirement in La Porte, give our compassionate team at Parsons House La Porte a call. We’re happy to answer your questions about community life and book you a tour to see it for yourself.

Written by Parsons House La Porte

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