Diabetes and the Older Adult


Both average life expectancy and the prevalence of diabetes are continuing to rise.  It is estimated at least 20% of older Caucasian adults have type 2 diabetes, and more than half of these individuals are not aware they have diabetes.  There is an even higher prevalence in other ethnic groups, particularly First Nations and East Asian populations. 


Due to the discovery of insulin in 1922, there are a greater number of older adults living with type 1 diabetes as well. 


Managing Diabetes and the Older Adult


Managing diabetes in the older adult can present unique challenges.  Age-related changes can mean that some symptoms will be harder to identify.  Physical limitations and cognitive impairment in some older adults can limit or cause challenges to self-management of diabetes.  


Here are some suggestions:


Blood glucose targets should be individualized

Symptoms of hypoglycemia (low blood glucose) may be missed

Medications should be reviewed

Healthy eating is important

Regular physical activity is important

Symptoms of hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) may be missed

Foot care is necessary

Vision and hearing impairment



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