Aging with Diabetes Type 2
As you know, your body changes as you get older. How diabetes affects your body will likely change too.
Changes as You Age
When Type 2 diabetes is first diagnosed, your body is still making insulin, but does not use it as it should to keep blood sugars normal. After years of your pancreas working overtime to produce enough insulin, it gets tired and can no longer keep up. This means it will begin to get harder to keep your blood sugars in normal range without doing more.
Blood Sugar Goals as You Age
You may have learned before that good blood sugar control keeps you healthier. Some of the major systems in your body that are affected include your kidneys, your nervous system, and your blood vessels. Good control is important, but it may be necessary to set higher goals as you age. Control is measured over time using the blood test called an A1C (See HFFY# 4798 “A1C Test”). Target goals are often less than 7%, but less than 8% may be safer for some. Ask your health care team what goal is right for you.
Treatment Changes as You Age with Diabetes
In the past, you may have been able to control your blood sugar levels through meal planning and exercise. Often times, these changes are not enough, so oral medicines are added. These medicines may not do enough to keep blood sugars controlled over time. Some might become unsafe. The chances of this are greater if you have kidney problems. As a result, it is normal to progress to needing insulin. This may be because the cells that make the insulin are no longer able to do so.
There are many options to make it easier to take insulin. There are magnifiers to enlarge printing on syringes. There are also insulin pens. Pens can be pre-filled with insulin. This makes it easier to give yourself the right dose. Pens are not always covered by insurance so be sure to ask about this.
If you feel that it is becoming harder to control your blood sugar levels, talk with your health care team to see if treatment with insulin is a better choice for you.
Low Blood Sugar (Hypoglycemia) Symptoms as You Age
The longer you have diabetes, the more in tune you become with your feelings of low blood sugar. As you age, you might find it harder to detect low blood sugars. For instance, when you were younger, you may have been more likely to feel symptoms like shaking and sweating. As you age, you may just feel fatigued, weak, dizzy, or have a hard time thinking. If you start to feel changes in how you sense low blood sugars, be sure to start keeping a log of your blood sugar levels and symptoms. Getting to know these new symptoms will keep you safer. It may also be useful for your doctor or health care team to know about these changes.
It is best to have routine clinic visits with your health care team. Use the space below for questions you want to talk about during these visits.
Questions for My Healthcare Team
DaSilva, Barbara A., (2000). Pharmacologic management of type 2 diabetes in the elderly: Overview of treatment options [Electronic Version]. Formulary, 35, 7, 580-589.
Huang, C.L., Wu, S.C., Jeng, C.Y., Lin, L.C. (2004). The efficacy of a home-based nursing program in diabetic control of elderly people with diabetes mellitus living alone. Blackwell Science Ltd., 21(1), 49-56.
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 07/05/2012
Copyright © 07/05/2012 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#6292
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