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Diabetes and premature aging: When age is not just a number
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Diabetes and premature aging: When age is not just a number

High sugar levels can affect the functioning of the cells, accelerating the aging process, say experts

Diabetes can lead to premature aging if uncontrolled. Studies have observed that diabetes can gradually deteriorate cells and tissues, accelerating the aging process.

Dr P K Jabbar, director and CEO of the Indian Institute of Diabetes, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, says, “Theoretically speaking, premature aging is possible due to diabetes as the condition causes a lot of oxidative damage. The tissues get exposed to a lot of oxygen free radicals.”

Diabetes also affects every organ system of the body, if the blood glucose level is not controlled. Dr Rajesh Khadgawat, professor of endocrinology at AIIMS, New Delhi, adds that the cells in the body use glucose for metabolism or energy production. “So, if glucose is circulating in the blood and cells are unable to utilize it due to absence or ineffectiveness of insulin, it can lead to premature aging,” he says.

Diabetes and aging

An article published in Diabetologia in 2019 notes that aging and diabetes lead to similar organ dysfunction, driven by parallel molecular mechanisms like cellular senescence (deterioration with age). The abundance of senescent cells in various tissues increases with age, obesity and diabetes.

Controlled sugar definitely can reduce the quantum of the issue, say experts. Dr Khadgawat says if the control is not optimal, one can develop complications. It’s not just diabetes but also blood pressure, cholesterol and other conditions that need to be under control to help prevent acceleration of the aging process or premature aging. “Due to poor glucose, if symptomatic, one can have polyuria, polydipsia and polyphagia, further affecting the quality of life,” he says.

Does high blood sugar make you look older?

It can also make one look older physically, say experts. “Diabetes can age the skin — the oxidative stress can cause damage to all tissues, including skin,” says Dr Jabbar. “Diabetes can also cause neuropathy and kidney problems, which will eventually affect life expectancy.”

Developing diabetes at a younger age means having to spend more time with the condition. “If, unfortunately, the condition is not controlled, an individual can develop other health complications, which will reduce not only their life expectancy but also productivity,” he says.

How to prevent premature aging due to diabetes

Premature aging is not just connected to diabetes but also with the worsening of the overall functioning of the body organs, says Dr Khadgawat. “If one is maintaining a good healthy lifestyle and keeping all other factors like blood pressure under control, there is no concern about premature aging.” 

Here are some measures recommended by experts, that can help prevent and manage diabetes complications, including premature aging.

  • Follow good nutrition
  • Ensure good control of diabetes
  • Ensure good psychosocial environment
  • Taking medications prescribed by the doctor
  • Doing exercises regularly
  • Practicing yoga can also help reduce diabetes complications

Takeaways

  • Diabetes, especially if uncontrolled, can lead to premature aging.
  • The oxidative stress due to diabetes can accelerate the deterioration of cells and tissues in the body.
  • Diabetes can also cause several health complications like heart issues and neuropathy, which can affect the life expectancy of a person.
  • Other parameters like cholesterol and BP should also be kept under check to prevent diabetes complications, including premature aging.
  • Maintaining a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise and a balanced diet can help manage diabetes complications.

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