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Diabetes impairs the health and well-being of 16 million people in the United States, and, according to the statistics, senior citizens run a particular risk. Due to already existent challenges to their health and lifestyle, it is more difficult to diagnose seniors with diabetes. Often other illnesses can mask diabetic symptoms.

Seniors with diabetes run a greater risk of complications like heart disease, stroke, loss of limbs from poor circulation, kidney disease and even blindness. This is why it is important that seniors, and their care givers, understand what diabetes is and are able to recognize the symptoms themselves.

Diabetes is a disease by which the body cannot make or use its own insulin, a substance in the body which transforms sugar into usable energy. There are two types of Diabetes; Type 1 and Type 2. Those who suffer from Type 1 are in most cases children or young adults. Type 2 accounts for 90%-95% of all diabetes sufferers, and is most often found in people over the age of 45.

Common symptoms and warning signs include:

• Frequent urination

• Extreme thirst

• Extreme hunger

• Excessive Weight Loss

• Exhaustion

• Irritability

• Blurred Vision

• Difficulty seeing

• Frequent infections

• Cuts or Bruises that will not heal or heal slowly

• Tingling or Numbness in the hands or feet

• Recurring skin, gum, or bladder infections

So what are your options if you’re diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes? For the most part, it’s a self-managed disease. The most important way to regulate your own diabetes is through diet and exercise. Losing weight if you are overweight, staying active and consistently keeping your blood sugar levels under control through self-monitoring will keep your diabetes symptoms and overall health in check. You’ll need access to supplies like meters, test strips, and insulin. These supplies are often covered through your health insurance policy.

Physical activity is a must, even for seniors without diabetes. Check with your local YMCA for physical fitness classes geared towards seniors, or if you’re homebound, chair exercises or just simple tasks like gardening and cleaning can be helpful. Check with your physician before beginning any physical regimen.

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