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According to the Center for Disease Control, as people age, the risk of diabetes increases. Around half of the diabetes cases afflict those above the age of 60. Over 20 percent of people over 60 in the USA have diabetes, which often leads to heart and kidney issues, and other ailments. Diabetes is a challenging illness, especially for seniors due to these common complications. The good news is that you can manage them, and Diabetes Medicare Coverage can help.
Diabetes is the result of the body not making or using insulin. Insulin, a hormone, converts sugar starches and other food as well into energy. Why people get diabetes is not certain, but it is likely a mix of heredity and environment.
Types of diabetes include:
- Type 1 diabetes. The body fails to produce insulin. Insulin is what allows cells to use glucose for energy. If you have type 1, you need to take insulin daily.
- Type 2 diabetes. The most common type, it occurs when the body isn't producing or using insulin. Elderly and minorities have historically been the most at risk for this type of diabetes.
- Gestational diabetes. This type isn't a concern for seniors. But women who have gestational diabetes are at a higher risk of type 2 diabetes in later life.
- Pre-diabetes. This is a condition that indicates you are at risk for type 2 diabetes. You have pre-diabetes when your blood glucose is higher than it should be, but not high enough to be considered type 2 diabetes.
The main risk factor for getting Type 2 Diabetes is being overweight. When you are overweight, it is harder to treat this condition. Although, if you lose even a small amount of weight (10 to 15 pounds) and exercise just 30 minutes a day, you can reduce the risk of getting diabetes by almost 60 percent.
How Does Medicare help?
Medicare can assist with many costs including prevention, testing, supplies, and therapy. Medicare Part D (Medicare drug coverage), covers anti-diabetic drugs that maintain your blood sugar. Medicare Part B (Medicare medical insurance) covers diabetes screening, a "Welcome to Medicare" physical exam, and Medical Nutrition Therapy. Part B also covers flu shots, pneumococcal shots, and glaucoma tests—you are at higher risk for glaucoma when you have diabetes, and flu and pneumonia can be more serious. You may also be eligible to receive therapeutic shoes and inserts, foot exams, and foot treatment.
If you do have diabetes, Medicare helps pay for your supplies both through Part B and Part D (this includes Insulin pumps and Insulin). Remember that in both Part B and Part D you may have deductibles or copayments in all these cases.
Aside from medication, there are other things you can do to keep diabetes under control. The National Institute on Aging has some suggestions:
- Keep track of your glucose levels. If the level is high or low (indicating hypoglycemia) your health may be at risk. Your physician can help you with how to do this.
- Educate yourself on how foods affect glucose levels. If you need to lose weight, look for foods low in fat and sugar. Again, talk to your health care professional for help with planning your diet.
- Get daily exercise. This will improve glucose levels in seniors and people with diabetes. A doctor can help with exercise plans too.
- Talk to your doctor and check your glucose levels often.
For optimal care and health, the National Institute on Aging also recommends:
- Get yearly eye exams. Finding issues early can keep your vision healthy.
- Have yearly tests to check your kidneys. A urine and blood test can show if your kidneys are in good shape.
- Get flu shots yearly and a pneumonia vaccine (covered by Medicare). Consult your doctor about when you should get these.
- Have a yearly blood test to check cholesterol. High levels of cholesterol or triglycerides can increase heart disease risks.
- Visit a dentist twice a year to have your teeth and gums checked to avoid problems.
- Know your average blood glucose level and you should have a specific test, an A1C test, which will give you your average glucose level for the previous two to three months.
- Pay close attention to your skin, keep it clean, and use moisturizers. Be sure to care for cuts and bruises immediately to prevent infection.
- Check your feet every day to look for red patches. If you have infections, built up calluses, blisters, sores, or breaks in the skin, see a foot doctor.
- Check your blood pressure regularly.