Diabetes in Costa Rica’s Elderly PopulationDespite efforts to combat diabetes in Costa Rica’s elderly population, the disease continues to be an ongoing health problem for the Latin American island nation. More than one-fifth of Costa Rica’s elderly population lives with diabetes, and the elderly population is particularly vulnerable to contracting chronic illness. This figure is higher than Costa Rica’s overall prevalence rate of diabetes, which is approximately 9%. And as the population continues to age rapidly, the prevalence of diabetes among the elderly in Costa Rica could also rise.

Prevalence of Diabetes in Costa Rica’s Elderly Population

Diabetes is a chronic illness affecting people of all ages but particularly afflicts those aged 65 and older. Aging, poor diet, physical inactivity and genetic predisposition are all factors that put the elderly at greater risk of contracting diabetes. One factor contributing to this is the impairment of pancreatic islets, responsible for and aiding in insulin production, which occurs with aging.

With elderly people at particularly high risk of contracting diabetes, another factor worrying health experts is Costa Rica’s rapidly aging population. The American Association for Retired Persons outlines United Nations statistics for Costa Rica’s elderly population, which currently represents 11.6% of the nation’s population. Costa Rica’s elderly population has increased by approximately 0.3% each year since 2001. Forecasts suggest the number of elderly Costa Rican could be 1.37 million people by 2050 — triple what it is in 2023.

Impact on Costa Rica’s Health Care Infrastructure

Unlike some of its neighboring nations, Costa Rica’s health care infrastructure is relatively stable. A 2000 survey by the World Health Organization (WHO) ranked Costa Rican health care infrastructure as No. 36 in the world, surpassing the United States (U.S.).

Hospitals and clinics that provide quality care and treatment options for patients, including elderly Costa Ricans living with diabetes, are readily available. However, a major obstacle facing some patients is cost. Research finds that health care costs for elderly people living with diabetes are anticipated to fuel rising overall costs. In some cases, patients live undiagnosed or refuse to adhere to their treatment plan, further exacerbating their condition.

Treatment and Assistance Available to Patients

Costa Rica’s national health care system, Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS), commonly known as “CAJA,” provides health coverage to all Costa Ricans, including diabetic patients. Through the system, elderly citizens living with diabetes can receive medication and supplies to effectively manage their condition. The Costa Rican Ministry of Health also provides resources and supplies, as well as education, to patients.

The Costa Rican health care infrastructure provides quality, effective care to its patients, including elderly diabetics. Though diabetes among Costa Rica’s elderly continues to be a health concern for some of the nation’s most vulnerable citizens, the quality health care infrastructure puts the nation in a good position to care for patients.

– Nicholas DeLuca
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