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What You Should Know About Type 1 Diabetes & Seniors

What You Should Know About Type 1 Diabetes & Seniors

Type 1 diabetes — also known as juvenile diabetes — is a chronic condition that, while typically diagnosed in young people is actually a lifelong condition that many seniors deal with on a daily basis. It can affect all areas of a senior’s health, so it is important to know how to cope with it, treat it, and understand the average life expectancy for those with type 1 diabetes.

In 2012, 1.25 million Americans — both adults and children — were living with type 1 diabetes, and 25.9 percent of seniors 65 and older have either type 1 or type 2 diabetes. With 1.4 million new cases being diagnosed in the United States each year, this disease, unfortunately, isn’t going away anytime soon.

If you have type 1 diabetes, you’re not alone. There are several famous individuals who also have the disease. Mary Tyler Moore recently passed away at the age of 80, and dealt with the disease for 50 years following a diagnosis at age 33. While Mary Tyler Moore was one of the most well-known celebrities with diabetes and who campaigned for its awareness, she isn’t the only one. Other stars with the disease include actress Halle Berry, musician Bret Michaels, and author Anne Rice.  

What is Type 1 Diabetes

A person with type 1 diabetes is unable to produce insulin. Insulin is used to allow sugar to enter the body’s cells to create energy. This differs from type 2 diabetes, which makes a person’s body become resistant to insulin or, in some cases, doesn’t produce enough.

While it is common for type 1 diabetes to be diagnosed in children, the onset can happen later in life. There are several factors that increase the odds of developing the disease. These include genetics and a family history of diabetes, as well as being exposed to certain types of viruses.

For seniors with type 1 diabetes, the risk of developing other health problems is increased. These can include severe hypoglycemia and other comorbid conditions that operate in-tandem with type 1 diabetes. In addition, an older adult may have to deal with mobility and dexterity issues. Other risks include issues with:

  • Vision
  • Depression
  • Hearing
  • Chronic pain

The percentage of older adults with type 1 diabetes is on the rise. Worldwide, the cases of type 1 diabetes are increasing by 2 to 5 percent each year.  

Average Life Expectancy for a Person with Type 1 Diabetes

The good news is that life expectancy for a person with type 1 diabetes is longer now than it was 40 years ago due to advances in treatments and systems to better monitor blood sugar.

The bad news is that those with type 1 diabetes still have a shorter average lifespan, by twelve years, than those without the disease. At the same time, according to a 2010 study found in the journal Diabetes in Control, men with the disease are living, on average, 1.9 years longer while women are living 1.5 years longer.

Can Diabetes be Cured or Simply go Away?

While diabetes can’t be cured and it doesn’t go away, the condition can be managed. There is what is called a “honeymoon period” when you first are diagnosed with diabetes. During that time, your diabetes may appear to go away for several months or even a year. Even so, it is recommended to take insulin injections so the few remaining insulin cells will continue to function for as long as possible.

The treatment of type 1 diabetes should not be taken lightly as diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the United States.

How Type 1 Diabetes is Treated in Seniors

As type 1 diabetics age, it can become more difficult to manage the disease due to mobility issues and cognitive functioning. This means a loved one or caretaker may need to step up and help manage the older adult’s diabetes. This can include giving shots and keeping records of blood sugar levels

While type 1 diabetes is a lifelong condition, with the right management program, you can live a normal and long life, and in the end, that is what matters most.

Do you live with type 1 diabetes? How do you manage your condition?