Diabetes Affects Lower Muscles of Older Individuals

diabetes muscle crampsThose with diabetes know that muscle problems are a recurring issue with their disease. Many experience severe muscle pains and cramps on a regular basis. Some also suffer from muscle atrophy, as well as the associated muscle dystrophy. These problems lead to damaged, weakened, and deteriorated muscles that are both unable to appropriately absorb glucose and support normal physical actions people make on a daily basis. A study last month in Italy has shown that this problem is even more pronounced in the muscles of older individuals.

It is a well-known problem as people age, their muscles slowly weakens. The study at the University of Ferrara, though, shows that older people with diabetes suffer more extreme muscle weakening. They measured many aspects of muscle quality and strength for 835 test subjects, all of whom were at least 65 years of age. Eleven percent of these individuals were reported to suffer from diabetes. After testing, the team reported that this portion of the test subjects performed much more poorly than the rest.

In a test of walking speed, with distances of both four meters and 400 meters, the subjects with diabetes showed a statistically significant decrease in speed. Further analysis of these individuals showed that, for the four-meter test, muscles in the lower body, primarily the legs, were responsible for a large portion of this decrease, almost 25 percent. In the 400-meter test, that percentage dropped by quite a bit, but was still at a significant 15 percent.

The researchers also had the test subjects perform a number of other tests by testing the strength and quality of their ankles, the flexibility and strength of their knees, and the overall power of their lower muscles. Again, the subjects with diabetes performed much worse as compared to those without diabetes. All of their data is adjusted for both gender and age, meaning that the researchers took both of those factors into consideration before making comparisons between those with diabetes and those without.

The study suggests that this decrease in muscle quality is one of the major reasons for the apparent limited walking ability of many older people with diabetes. It is one of the main reasons many with diabetes are forced to use walkers or canes to move around, or even power chairs for those with even weaker leg muscles.


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