Diabetes is a chronic disease associated with excess sugar in the blood, and it has truly become a global problem as it affects both developed and developing nations. According to Fonseca, Kirkman, Darsow, and Ratner (2012), approximately “26 million Americans have the disease, including over 10% of the total adult population and over 25% of the population aged 65 years and older” (p. 1338) and the disease is like to rise in the future. The number will increase as many people turn to old age. Older adults are prone to diabetes due to inactivity and diets. Hence, aging and diabetes are likely to strain the available healthcare resources. Moreover, older adults are also likely to increase spending on healthcare services. Therefore, given the expected demographic changes in the US within the next two decades and possible impacts on public health and costs, it is imperative to understand the prevalence of diabetes (both type 1 and type 2) among seniors based on their sex, age, race, educational achievement, socioeconomic status, and other relevant factors.
Screening for diabetes has revealed the following:
- An increasing disease burden
- It requires a well researched natural history
- Ability to recognize preclinical stages (in case of no clear symptoms but with possibilities of diagnosis)
- Tests should detect undiagnosed cases in the preclinical stage
- Random screening may not yield favorable results
In most cases, diabetic people may develop the problem from a combination of several factors. Genetic compositions are major contributors to diabetes (Rathmann, Scheidt-Nave, Roden and Herder, 2013). People have overall control of their health, unless the problem relates to rare genetic predisposing factors that could make it nearly impossible to avoid chances of becoming diabetic.
Studies have linked some cases of diabetes to poor eating habits. Foods rich in fats and calories, which are mainly junk foods, have contributed to several cases of diabetes. Poor diets also lead diabetes. On the same note, lifestyle also contributes to diabetes. People who do not exercise and lead sedentary lifestyles have high risks of developing diabetes.
Risks of developing diabetic conditions among individuals increase with age, weight gain, obesity, and lack of physical exercise. This is common in type 2 diabetes. Family history or racial membership may also expose an individual to risks. Women may experience high rates of diabetes, particularly if they have polycystic ovary syndrome. Moreover, people who have “hypertension, dyslipidemia, impaired glucose tolerance (IGT), or impaired fasting glucose (IFG)” (American Diabetes Association, 2007, p. s21) also have high risks of developing diabetic condition.
Effective approaches for preventing diabetes are physical exercises and healthy diets. These are the basic steps in preventing and managing the condition. However, interventions that are more robust are also available for managing diabetes among older adults and the public.
A number of risk factors and behaviors for many chronic diseases also relate with diabetes among older adults. Therefore, modification of these behaviors has greater potentials of reducing cases of diabetes among older adults.
Bertoni and colleagues noted that the rate of diabetic in the US among older adults had increased from 8 percent to 10 percent between 1970 and 1980s (Bertoni, Krop, Anderson and Brancati, 2002). Still, current data have indicated that the overall rate of diabetes has continued to rise among older adults (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011). In addition, diabetes has remained widespread, and it has become a major public health concern in the US (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011). However, it is difficult to determine the exact rate of increase in diabetes because of disparities based on reporting, screening, geographical locations, and socioeconomic conditions among the affected populations.
Scholars have continued to focus on diabetes prevalence in both adults and children. They noted that diabetes prevalence varies among African-Americans, Caucasians, and Hispanics in both men and women of different age groups. Further, most diabetic people have also developed other chronic diseases (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011).
Obesity among older adults
Bertoni et al. (2002) noted that diabetes among older adults was growing steadily. They also noted that “death rates in both men and women increased significantly with age” (p. 471).
The problem of rising cases of diabetes has become a global concern due to several risks factors. Moreover, diabetes in older adults is associated with several chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular conditions, cancers, overweight, and obesity.
Morbidity and mortality rates
In 2007, diabetes was the seventh cause of deaths in the US (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011). Nearly 71,382 deaths were attributed to diabetes in 2007. In addition, the disease also contributed to over 160,022 deaths in the same year.
In most cases, diabetes is not reported as the main cause of death. Past studies have shown that nearly “35% to 40% of decedents with diabetes had it listed anywhere on the death certificate and about 10% to 15% had it listed as the underlying cause of death” (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011).
People with diabetes are likely to die at a higher rate than those without the condition.
Rising or declining
Several studies have indicated that the rate of diabetes has risen steadily in the US, developed countries, as well as developing ones. American Diabetes Association showed that the prevalence of diabetes among adults was “7.4% in 1995, which was expected to rise to 9% in 2025” (American Diabetes Association, 2007).
The global rise in cases of diabetes in the last few decades has also facilitated the increase in other chronic conditions among the public. Although significant cases of diabetes have been reported among children, the condition has mainly affected older adults. This is a serious trend, which will affect healthcare providers, individuals, and economies.
Given the health risks, medical costs, effects of the condition on individuals, and the challenge of treatment once a person develops diabetes, prevention of diabetes by managing risk factors could help in solving the problem. However, the process may not be simple.
Therefore, reducing the growing cases of overweight and obesity and poor diets will require multidisciplinary approaches, individual and public effort, and resources on large-scale. Thus, the choice of foods and physical activities should be the major interventions for diabetes.
Conclusion and recommendations for the future
The rate of diabetes has risen steadily among older adults in the US. Moreover, the number of seniors will increase in the next two decades and set a demographic shift that would result in many chronic diseases and create challenges to healthcare providers. Diabetes is among the leading causes of deaths in the US. Thus, interventions are necessary.
Continuous public education and awareness
Many older adults do not easily get relevant information about diabetes due to their advance ages. Healthcare providers and other stakeholders should encourage public awareness and campaigns that focus on this population of interest.
Most cultures do not foster inclusion. Hence, foreigners may find it difficult to get relevant information or resources in cases of diabetes. Healthcare providers should encourage different stakeholders to work together in the fight against diabetes.
Advocate for resources
In the recent past, available resources for diabetes have focused on children and nearly neglected seniors. Healthcare facilities and communities should advocate for resources that meet needs of diabetic older adults. Distribution of resources should focus on the prone population or most affected individuals.
Working with the community to improve diabetes cases
Continuous education and collaboration are the best approaches to fighting diabetes. Healthcare providers should educate the community about diabetes. At the same time, the community members must also cooperate and attend public seminars about diabetes. This would enhance creation of awareness and public education.
Public and private partnership
This approach shall involve collaboration among independent stakeholders in the health sector and the government to improve diabetes outcomes.
The government should formulate policies that support healthy living and diets. The focus should be on restricting junk foods and other simple carbohydrates among the public. In addition, the government must also finance and support diabetes-related programs.
The private sector should support diabetic people, outreach programs, and free medical checkups. They can directly fund such projects.
American Diabetes Association. (2007). Screening for Diabetes. Diabetes Care, 25(suppl 1), s21-s24.
Bertoni, A., Krop, J., Anderson, G., and Brancati, F. (2002). Diabetes-Related Morbidity and Mortality in a National Sample of U.S. Elders. Diabetes Care, 25(3), 471- 475. d
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2011). 2011 National Diabetes Fact Sheet. Web.
Fonseca, V., Kirkman, S., Darsow, T., and Ratner, R. (2012). The American Diabetes Association Diabetes Research Perspective. Diabetes, 61(6), 1338–1345.
Lee, J., Davis, M., and Kim, C. (2010). Age and Sex Differences in Hospitalizations Associated with Diabetes. Journal of Women’s Health (Larchmt), 19(11), 2033– 2042. d
Rathmann, W., Scheidt-Nave, C., Roden, M., and Herder, C. (2013). Type 2 Diabetes: Prevalence and Relevance of Genetic and Acquired Factors for Its Prediction. Dtsch Arztebl Int., 110(19), 331–337.