There is an inexorable link between wheelchair use and diabetes. Paralysis (one the most common causes necessitating wheelchair use) increases one’s risk for developing diabetes, owing to many factors, including decreased physical activity and decreased control over food choices, though even those with only limited mobility can also be affected. Research shows that individuals whose mobility is severely limited have a threefold greater chance of developing diabetes, indicating that specific measures need to be taken to prevent and treat the problems associated with this disease. The relationship extends even further, since patients with diabetes also have a greater chance of developing disabilities that lead to wheelchair use.
How can diabetes lead to wheelchair use?
Diabetes can bring about many complications, including heart disease (the disease poses a greater risk for heart attack and stroke), eye problems (they are more prone to vision problems and even blindness), kidney disease, and neuropathy (a disease affecting up to 70 per cent of all people with diabetes). There are two types of neuropathy: peripheral (affecting the limbs) and autonomic (damaging heart vessels, the eyes, feet, lungs and many other organs). Peripheral neuropathy often begins as ‘pins and needles’ in the hands and feet but as the condition progresses, it can lead to a loss of sensation in the feet, which stops those affected from driving and walking leading to wheelchair use. Neuropathy interferes with one’s ability to exercise and maintain a healthy lifestyle to a great degree; it also wrests from one’s motivation to meet health goals which involve exercise. As a result, muscle mass is lost and strength and flexibility are decreased.
Another way that diabetes can lead to wheelchair use is via amputation. The disease can result in many complications, including nerve damage and poor blood circulation. These can make the feet especially vulnerable to foot ulcers, tissue and bone damage, which may require amputation.
Diabetes lowers life expectancy and number of disability free years
Diabetes is of particular concern to women, since recent research has shown that the normal five-year gender gap between the life expectancies of women and men is significantly reduced among people who have diabetes. Indeed, both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes reduce the overall life expectancy and the number of years people can live without a disability.
The new research showed that the life expectancy for men with diabetes at age 50 was 30.2, while their disability-free life expectancy was 12.7. Women did not fare much better, with a 33.9 LFE and a 13.1 DFLE. The estimated decrease in life expectancy was 3.2 years for men and 3.1 for women, compared to those without diabetes. The DFLE loss for men and women, respectively, was 8.2 years for men and 9.1 for women.(For more information, see http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hus/hus15.pdf#014)
Women are affected to a greater extent, since they spend a larger percentage of their life with disability from the age of 50 onwards, compared to men (61 per cent versus 58 per cent). The difference with respect to women without diabetes (40 per cent) is even more dramatic.
It is vital that those with diabetes follow a strict nutritional and fitness regime, but those without the disease should work hard to keep it at bay. The focus should be on losing excess weight and on working out frequently, thereby staving off obesity. We should also work hard to keep stress at bay, since chronically high levels of stress can contribute to the development of diabetes.
Whether you are a woman who relies on a wheelchair who is fearful of developing diabetes, or a person with diabetes who has been diagnosed with neuropathy, it is vital to take preventive measures to stop the condition from worsening and leading to complications and additional health issues. The primary focus should be on keeping blood glucose levels within a healthy range; by doing so, early neuropathy can be sent into remission. Doctors recommend consuming a healthy diet (based on Mediterranean tenets), keeping active, and treating any nerve pain that can interfere with one’s quality of life and with one’s motivation to adopt a healthy lifestyle. Those who use wheelchairs, meanwhile, can follow the same advice to keep diabetes at bay, keeping obesity at bay through a healthy diet and the adoption of a sound exercise regime they are comfortable with. Chair yoga is just one popular activity that is ideal if you have a condition such as multiple sclerosis, arthritis, osteoporosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, etc. This activity can be adopted to all fitness levels and abilities, making it an ideal way to augment strength and flexibility without being too strenuous.
About the Author:
"I've been working as a writer now for the last year or so, after giving up a career in the city - working in the finance sector. I found it really stressful and once I became a mom, more difficult to juggle alongside my desire to see my two children brought up properly - and how I wanted them to be. In my spare time, I worked as a volunteer for a mental health charity, I'm someone who has always suffered from high anxiety and depression - working with people who had the same problems as me also made me reassess and step back. I'm now a bit happier than I was, and working towards a career that still has challenges, but allows me more freedom" ~ Gemma Fletcher