Elderly with diabetes 50% likelier to have disability


Photo - Martine via Flickr under creative commons license

Older adults with diabetes are between 50 and 80 percent likelier to have a disability compared to people without the disease, according to a review published on Wednesday.

Researchers at the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne, Australia, trawled through more than 3,200 previously published studies that explored the link between diabetes and disability.

They narrowed the catch down to 26 studies that compared like with like.

Most of the people in these studies were aged over 65 -- an age category in which Type-2 diabetes, also called adult onset diabetes, predominates.

Disability was defined as either crimped mobility or an impaired ability to perform daily activities such as bathing, eating, using the phone, shopping and using transport.

Lead epidemiologist Anna Peeters said the association between diabetes and disability was long known but until now poorly identified.

The causes remain mysterious, she said.

"It's possible that the high blood glucose concentrations experienced by people with diabetes might lead to chronic muscle inflammation, eventually resulting in physical disability, and some studies have shown that diabetes is associated with rapid and worsening muscle wasting," she said.

"The complications associated with diabetes, such as heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease, can all result in disability.

"As the world's population ages, and diabetes becomes more common, it seems clear that we will see an increased need for disability-related health resources."

The paper appears in the journal The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology.

According to the UN's World Health Organisation (WHO), 347 million people around the world have diabetes, a disease in which the body fails to break down glucose in the blood through the hormone insulin.

Ninety percent of these have the Type 2 form of the disease, which typically shows up in adulthood or late childhood, driven by obesity and a sedentary lifestyle.

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