Diabetes and Older People (cont.)

Types of Diabetes

There are two types of diabetes. In one kind, people must take insulin every day. This is called type 1 diabetes, formerly known as juvenile-onset diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is often first seen in children, teenagers, or adults under age 30.

The second kind of diabetes happens when the body produces insulin but doesn't use it in the right way. This is called type 2 diabetes, formerly called adult-onset diabetes. It is most common in people over age 40. Type 2 diabetes is linked to obesity, lack of activity, family history of diabetes, and family background. African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, American Indians, and some Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are at very high risk for type 2 diabetes.

There is also a condition called pre-diabetes in which blood glucose (a form of sugar) levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be called diabetes. This condition raises the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. People with pre-diabetes can delay or prevent type 2 diabetes by losing weight and being more active.

Related Health Concerns

Blood glucose levels that are either very high or very low can lead to serious medical problems, even emergencies. In addition to the health problems noted above, people with diabetes could go into a coma (become unconscious) if their blood glucose levels get very high. Low blood glucose (called hypoglycemia) can also cause problems if it's untreated. Usually hypoglycemia is mild and can easily be treated by eating or drinking something with carbohydrates such as bread, fruit, potatoes, or milk. But, left untreated, hypoglycemia can lead to loss of consciousness. Although hypoglycemia can happen suddenly, it can usually be treated quickly, bringing your blood glucose level back to normal.

Researchers recently have found that people with diabetes also have an increased risk for Alzheimer's disease. Studies are underway to understand this connection and to see whether strict control of glucose can delay or prevent this problem.


Often, people with type 2 diabetes have few or no symptoms. Many people with type 2 diabetes don't even know they have it. For some people, feeling run, down is their only symptom. Other people may feel thirsty, urinate often, lose weight, have blurred vision, get skin infections, or heal slowly from cuts and bruises. It is very important to tell the doctor right away about any of these problems.

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