The International Diabetes Federation predicts that at least one in 10 adults could have diabetes by 2030. According to the World Health Organization, there are currently about 346 million people worldwide with diabetes. Diabetes is a serious and rapid growing problem among America’s seniors. The National Diabetes fact sheet produced by the CDC estimates that 27% of people over the age of 65 have diabetes and another 50% have pre-diabetes. Diabetes is a serious growing problem, especially in seniors, that needs to be understood.
Diabetes is a metabolism disorder that affects the body’s ability to convert glucose (sugar) into energy. Glucose is sugar in the blood, a main source of what fuels our body. When carbohydrates are digested they turn into glucose. Glucose is then transferred to the blood and used by the cells for energy and growth. In order for glucose to be transferred from the blood to the cells insulin is needed.
Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas. After eating the pancreas automatically releases enough insulin to move the glucose from the blood to the cells. However, in someone with diabetes this process is impaired, and the pancreas fails to produce sufficient quantities of insulin. This results in too much glucose building up in the blood and an inadequate amount getting to the cells for energy and growth.
There are two different types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes occurs in individuals who produce no insulin at all. This accounts for about 5-10% of all diabetes in the United States and occurs frequently in children and young adults but can occur at any age. There appears to be a genetic component in Type 1 diabetes, but the cause is yet to be determined.
Type 2 diabetes occurs in individuals who do not produce enough insulin or the insulin produced is not working properly and cannot move glucose into the cells. Type 2 diabetes is the more common form of diabetes occurring in 90-95% of all cases. It mainly affects adults and has been strongly correlated to physical inactivity and obesity. Risk of Type 2 diabetes becomes more common as people get older and is an increasing problem among the elderly.