Seniors with diabetes are at higher risk of becoming physically disabled, a research review has shown.

A systematic review of 26 previous studies picked from a pool of 3,200 research papers studying diabetes and disability, suggests that old people with diabetes are between 50 – 80 percent more likely to become physically disabled than non-sufferers.

The study
For the purpose of the study, researchers at the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne, Australia conducted a meta-analysis of 26 previous studies.

The participants were adult patients with and without diabetes. The sample size was 66,813 and 369 participants respectively. The mean baseline age of the participants was 55, but most were older than 55.

Researchers pooled data for disabled mobility, defined as self-reported disability and low scores in performance tests of walking speed, chair stands, and balance tests, activities of daily living like bathing, dressing, eating, walking across a room, etc. and activities instrumental to daily living such as using the phone, shopping, and using transportation and adjusted them for age, sex, smoking status, and education.

Participants were followed for a period varying from 18 months to 9 years.

Analysis revealed that diabetic participants were 71 percent more likely to mobility disorders as compared to a 51 percent increased risk in those without diabetes.

Diabetics were at 65 percent higher risk of suffering from disability in carrying out instrumental activities of daily living and at 87 percent increased risk in carrying out activities of daily living as against versus those without diabetes, researchers added.

Why diabetes spurs physical disability
Although the exact reason why diabetes is associated with physical disability is unclear, researchers speculate a range of mechanisms.

“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,” study’s lead researcher, Dr Anna Peeters, from the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne, Australia, 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, which health systems around the world need to be prepared for,” she added.

The findings are reported in the journal The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.

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