Diabetes and Aging: Relationships


As people grow older, many of the illnesses that usually manifest in old age begin to crop up. People are not strong enough as they used to be, the most menial chores in the prime of their youth now seem to be the most tedious, such as getting up from bed and going to the bathroom. Along with these maladies afflicting the elderly is diabetes. Why is diabetes prevalent in the elderly population and what are the symptoms and cures for the illness?

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            As people grow and develop, the intake of food is a necessary and primary step in that growth (American Association of Retired Persons, 2008). As we eat, the carbohydrates in the food are broken down into simple sugars, glucose (AARP, 2008). That glucose makes its way into the bloodstream for the body to utilize as energy and for growth (AARP, 2008). The cells that use that glucose need a hormone produced by the individual’s pancreas, insulin (AARP, 2008). In type 2 diabetes, the pancreas is deficient in the production of that hormone, insulin, and the body is unprepared to receive the insulin that is produced (AARP, 2008).

            As such, the resulting fact is that the glucose builds up in the body, going over to the urine of the person (AARP, 2008). In effect, the body’s metabolism is affected (National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, 2008). Diabetes can thus be defined as an infirmity of the body’s metabolic system (National Institute, 2008). When people consume food, the pancreas, the organ of the body responsible for the production of insulin to break down the glucose for the use of the body’s cells, must be able to produce sufficient amount of that hormone (National Institute, 2008). As stated earlier, the surplus glucose that is not absorbed by the cells spill out in the urine of that person, thus losing the main fuel of the body (National Institute, 2008).

Types of Diabetes

Type 1 Diabetes

            This form of diabetes is defined as an autoimmune disease. As defined, an autoimmune disease is the ramification when the body’s immune system conflicts with another organ of the body (National Institute, 2008). In cases of diabetes, the immune system of the person vitiates the beta cells in the pancreas which produce the insulin in the pancreas (National Institute, 2008).  As is the case, the pancreas does not produce sufficient amount of insulin for the absorption of the glucose in the body (National Institute, 2008).

            To date, scientific research has not been able to quantify the factors that lead the immune system to decimate the pancreas’ beta cells (National Institute, 2008). Theories about the symptom revolve around possible hereditary, environment, and autoimmune factors among other possibilities (National Institute, 2008). These symptoms are inclusive of increased episodes of thirst and need for urination, persistent hunger pangs, loss of weight and hazy vision, with the extreme case of lapsing into diabetic ketoacidosis, or a diabetic coma (National Institute, 2008).  This type of diabetes currently afflicts 5 to 10 percent of all diabetes cases in the United States (National Institute, 2008).

Type 2 Diabetes and Gestational Diabetes

            This form of diabetes is synonymous with the onset of old age, obesity, certain ethnic groups, and people who lack physical work outs (National Institute, 2008). In diabetic cases, it is estimated that 90 to 95 percent are afflicted with this type of diabetes (National Institute, 2008). Of the ethnic groups, the most prevalent has been in the African American, Latino and those from the Pacific Islands in their youth group (National Institute, 2008). The other form, gestational diabetes, appears during the 4th to 6th month of pregnancy and vanishes after the birth of the child (Debra Manzella, 2007).

In many instances of elderly people with diabetes, the most common illness is that of cardiovascular diseases (American Diabetes Association, 2007). Aging usually results in the biological decay of the organs of the body (Jerrold Petrofsky, Scott Lee & Maria Cuneo, 2005). Diabetes and aging have been linked to the reduction of the endothelial function (Petrofsky, Lee & Cuneo, 2005). The type 2 form is the common one found in the elderly, and if amalgamated with the instance of obesity in the elderly, gives a significant problem for the doctors attending the patient (Shivani Dewan, John Wilding, 2003).

Medication for diabetes type 2

At present, diabetes is an illness that still eludes cure (Roger Henderson, 2009). But there oral medications to help monitor and regulate the levels of blood sugar in people who still produce some amounts of insulin (WebMD LLC, 2009).  These medications are given to individuals with type 2 diabetes with suggestions of dietary alterations and advocating consistent physical regimens (WebMD, 2009). In type 2 diabetes, the patient’s body, as stated earlier, does not produce sufficient amounts of insulin for their bodies (WebMD, 2009). Also, the patient’s body becomes “insulin-resistant”, or the body does not absorb glucose in the proper manner (WebMD, 2009).

The pills for the alleviation of diabetes can be classified according to their type (WebMD, 2009). Among them are sulfonylurea are medications designed to rouse the pancreas in producing more insulin (WebMD, 2009). Earlier drugs such as Dylemor, Orinase, Diabinese and Tolinase, were less effective compared to the newer line of diabetic drugs (WebMD, 2009). These would include Glucotrol, Glucotrol XL, Micronase among others (WebMD, 2009).

Biguanides help the ability of the insulin to move the sugar into the body’s cell structure, particularly the muscle cells of the body (WebMD, 2009). They also arrest the ability of the liver to release the sugar that has been stored (WebMD, 2009).  But these types of medication must not be used by people with a history of kidney failure and heart illnesses (WebMD, 2009). Metformin, such as Glucophage, Riomet and Fortamet are several examples of this drug (WebMD, 2009).

The incidence of type 2 diabetes, which roughly account for 9 out of 10 cases, increases with the person reaching the age of 65 (Jeffrey Wallace, 1999). Proposals have been made for the screening of people over 45 for increased amounts of glucose that must be done every three years (Wallace, 1999).  But the most common prescription for the reduction of risks of acquiring diabetics still lie with the individual; exercise and a healthy diet are still effective means to ward off diabetes (AARP, 2008).


American Association of Retired Persons. (2008). What is type 2 diabetes? Retrieved February 17, 2009, from http://healthed.aarphealthcare.com/ArticlePage.aspx?CategName=Diabetes&TopicName=Signs%20and%20Symptoms&ArticleTitle=whatdia

American Diabetes Association. (2007). Suboptimal use of cardioprotective drugs I newly treated elderly individuals with type 2 diabetes. Retrieved February 17, 2009, from  http://care.diabetesjournals.org/cgi/reprint/dc06-2257v1.pdf

Dewan, S., Wilding, J.P.H. (2003). Obesity and type-2 diabetes in the elderly. Gerontology, Volume 49, number 3.


Henderson, R. (2009). What is diabetes? Retrieved February 17, 2009, from http://www.bbc.co.uk/health/conditions/diabetes/aboutdiabetes_what.shtml

Manzella, D. (2007). What is diabetes? Retrieved February 17, 2009, from http://diabetes.about.com/od/whatisdiabetes/p/whatisdiabetes.htm

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. (2008). What I need to know about diabetes medicines. Retrieved February 17, 2009, from http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/medicines_ez/

Petrofsky, J., Lee, S., & Cuneo, M. (2005). Effects of aging and type 2 diabetes on resting and post occlusive hyperemia of the forearm; the impact of rosiglitazone. BMC Endocrine Disorders Volume 5


Wallace, J.I. (1999). Management of diabetes in the elderly. Clinical Diabetes.  Volume 17 number 1. http://journal.diabetes.org/clinicaldiabetes/v17n11999/Pg19.htm

Web MD, LLC. (2009). Oral diabetes medications. Retrieved February 17, 2009, from http://diabetes.webmd.com/guide/oral-medicine-pills-treat-diabetes

Table of Contents

I. Diabetes _______________________________________________________ __ 1

A.    Definition__________________________________________________1

B.     Mechanics and diagnosis______________________________________ 1

     II. Types of Diabetes­­­­­___________________________________________________1

                  A. Type 1 Diabetes______________________________________________1

                  B. Definition___________________________________________________2

                        B.1. Research and Theories____________________________________ 2

                        B.2. Symptoms_____________________________________________  2


                 C. Type 2 Diabetes and Gestational Diabetes__________________________2

                        C.1. Definitions_____________________________________________ 2

  III. Medications for Diabetes _____________________________________________ 3

A.    Enumeration of medications______________________________________  3

A.1. Sulfonylurea ______________________________________________ 3

      A.1.1. Classification________________________________________ _ 3

      A.1.2. Examples of sulfonylurea _____________________________      3

            B. Biguanides

                 A.1. Function and classification _________________________________      3

                        A.1. Examples __________________________________________        3

IV. Incidences of diabetes in the elderly __________________________________        3



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