Category Archives: aging

Guest blog…Diabetes Impact on the Mental Wellness of the Elderly

I was recently contacted by Jenna Walters, an English major with a passion for diabetes. We know that there is a strong connection between diabetes and depression.  Jenna speaks to the issue of the impact on the mental wellness of the elderly.
Thanks Jenna!
Once diabetes develops in a person, it becomes a life-long medical condition that requires an effective management plan. Most people are familiar with the negative health implications associated with diabetes, which include an increased risk of stroke, heart attack and kidney disease. However, few people realize that diabetes can contribute to various mental conditions, especially in seniors. Regular health screening for diabetes increases the chances of early diagnosis and reduces its impact on mental wellness.

Mental Illnesses Linked to Elderly Diabetics

Depression is a common mental condition that occurs synonymously with diabetes. In some patients, the diagnosis of diabetes contributes to overwhelming emotions and stress leading to a depressed mental state. Depression in diabetics may also be linked to some medications used for diabetes treatment, metabolic processes or the sudden realization of a life-altering medical condition.

Results of a scientific study published in the September 20, 2011 issue of Neurology, an American Academy of Neurology publication, indicate an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia conditions in diabetics. Type 2 diabetes and its connection to the development of Alzheimer’s disease is not entirely understood. It is believed that uncontrolled blood glucose levels in elderly diabetics causes a condition known as vascular dementia, caused by blood vessel damage in the brain. This damage to the brain’s blood vessels contributes to mild cognitive impairment, MCI, a phase of mental and cognitive changes that occur between normal aging and more serious conditions such as dementia.

Improving Mental Wellness in Elderly Diabetics

An active lifestyle has been found to improve overall mental wellness of cancer sufferers, such as peritoneal mesothelioma, as well as in elderly diabetics. Studies indicate diabetics who participate in 30 to 60 minutes of aerobic or a mix of strength training and aerobic exercises, three to five times per week, decrease their risk of mental disease and complications from diabetes. Regular exercise increases mental alertness and improves judgment and thinking skills as a person ages.

Maintain a healthy diet and reduce blood sugar spikes and fallouts. Drastic swings in blood glucose levels have a direct impact on a person’s mood. Extremely high or low readings lead to irritability, loss of concentration and decreased mental sharpness. Use a balanced diet of lean proteins, fiber-rich foods, vegetables, whole-grains and complex carbohydrates to combat food’s affect on glucose levels and mood.

Follow a doctor’s treatment plan for diabetes and mental illness. Discuss symptoms of depression or other mental changes with a healthcare provider. Identifying the source of the symptoms helps treat the underlying cause and improves the chances of successful treatment. Diabetics in a successful treatment regimen tend to manage their diabetes better than those with uncontrolled mental diseases. Good mental health improves a diabetic’s ability to focus on managing the disease through diet, medications and exercise.