Type 2 diabetes in older adults

There’s a higher-than-expected prevalence of eating disorders in older adults, which leads us into the topic of this week’s column: the continued growth of type 2 diabetes among older adults.

The general population is aging, and the over-60 population is continuing to grow beyond current birth rates. The Endocrine Society (www.endocrine.org) estimates that a third of adults aged 65 or older has diabetes. It’s a number that’s expected to rise significantly in the decades to come, especially when considering that not all those with diabetes know they have it. Maybe they say they feel “fine for their age”; a little fatigued here and there; their feet are sometimes puffy and sore; their eyesight occasionally goes fuzzy.

With diabetes, there’s often no obvious red-flag indicator that something’s very wrong until serious complications arise. This is why annual screenings for diabetes are so important for older adults. The screenings make it more likely that diabetes can be addressed through diet, exercise and medication while an individual is otherwise asymptomatic.

Preventing and reducing the risk of diabetes complications is well-understood:

• Keep your blood sugar and hemoglobin A1C within recommended range;

• Keep blood pressure and cholesterol under control;

• Stay physically active, especially with exercises that can be incorporated into daily routines;

• Quit smoking, and consume alcohol only in moderation as per a doctor’s recommendation.

Still goals for older adults with diabetes will differ and change over time. Older adults often have complex healthcare needs that will require a trained eye to monitor.

It’s important to talk openly with healthcare providers, to aim for the best possible outcomes and prevent complications. Assessments specific to diabetes treatment can include eye exams to detect signs of diabetic retinopathy; kidney screening (nephropathy); nerve damage (neuropathy); mental health and cognitive impairment screenings; body mass index (BMI) measurements; bone mineral density; measurements of functional status and activities of daily living (ADLs); and self-management and training.

The Office for the Aging (OFA) can have a role to play in diabetes care, through OFA’s nutrition services division (www.dutchessny.gov/OFAnutrition), the multifaceted OFA exercise program (www.dutchessny.gov/seniorexercise) and OFA’s “A Matter of Balance” classes. There are OFA exercise classes available throughout Dutchess County, and we’re always looking for volunteer class leaders. We provide the training.

You can find printable participant and volunteer leader applications for our classes on the website. The next “A Matter of Balance” classes begin this fall.

Not online? You can reach out to OFA at 845-486-2555.

In the meantime, remember that any kind of physical activity is good for you, and any level of exercise is better than none. It’s never too late to start!


Golden Living is prepared by Dutchess County OFA Director Todd N. Tancredi, who can be reached at 845-486-2555, ofa@dutchessny.gov or via the OFA website at www.dutchessny.gov/aging.

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