Only one in three older Americans have diabetes controlled

GAIN CONTROL: Researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found only one in three Americans over the age of 65 have their diabetes under control, which could lead to long-term health complications and early death. (Courtesy photo)

GAIN CONTROL: Researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found only one in three Americans over the age of 65 have their diabetes under control, which could lead to long-term health complications and early death. (Courtesy photo)

By Pam Daniels


Michigan State University Extension
Why do so few older Americans have control over their diabetes? The first reason has to do with the aging U.S. populations. Are you a Baby Boomer? If so, then you are probably already aware you are among one of the fastest growing cohorts in the U.S.. Baby Boomers began turning 65 in 2011. By 2029, more than 20 percent of the U.S. population will be 65 and older!The second reason has to do with the increase of diagnosed diabetes which has grown to epidemic proportions from 1958 to 2014. According to the Centers for Disease Control, diabetes has been on the rise. In 2014, 21.9 million people had been diagnosed with diabetes compared to only 1.6 million in 1958.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found only one in three Americans over the age of 65 have their diabetes under control, which could lead to long-term health complications and early death.

Age related factors impacting diabetes control may include:

  • Being 65 and older — Understandably, as we age our chances for developing chronic diseases like hypertension (high blood pressure) and high cholesterol also increases. Diabetes management is linked to these and other chronic diseases. As we age, our energy levels and metabolism also drop this influences the body’s insulin levels. And ironically, diabetes complications can also speed up the aging process.
  • Medication use — Most commonly, the older we get the more prevalent the need is for medication usage. The interaction of multiple drugs may have an impact on blood sugar numbers. Diabetes drugs themselves may cause hypoglycemic interactions when taken with other medications.
  • Metabolism — As we age, even for those individuals who stay active, our metabolism (how our bodies break down food and convert cells into energy) slows and changes. This change in our metabolism could impact the way medication is metabolized by the body. Hormonal changes prevalent in aging affect the body’s metabolism, too.

Discuss with your healthcare team

  • Testing your blood sugar — Testing is the only way to truly know your blood sugar numbers.
  • Weight and BMI — Indisputably, aging has a major impact on our weight; controlling your weight helps to control blood sugar.
  • Physical activity — Exercise lowers blood sugar, helps support bone density, joint health, agility and other blood lipid health such as cholesterol, high blood pressure.
  • Keep a log of foods you eat — Along with testing, this can help determine what foods and at what times of the day your blood sugar is most (controlled/uncontrolled) impacted.
  • Manage your mental health — Depression and the burden of diabetes can go hand in hand. Do not be afraid to discuss any episodes of depression with your healthcare team.

Aside from working with your healthcare team, there is clear evidence that self-management leads to better blood sugar control. Michigan State University Extension offers community based self-management workshops statewide. To find a Diabetes PATH, a Dining with Diabetes or a Diabetes Prevention program near you, visit Michigan State Univeristy Extension’s events page.

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