Diabetes and Older People (cont.)


Medical tests will show if diabetes is causing your problems. A doctor can diagnose diabetes by reviewing your symptoms and checking your blood glucose levels. One test (fasting plasma glucose test) measures your blood glucose level after eating or drinking nothing (fasting) for at least 8 hours, usually overnight. In another test, called the oral glucose tolerance test, your blood glucose is checked and then you drink a sugary beverage. Your blood glucose (sugar) levels are then checked 1 hour, 2 hours, and 3 hours later. Diagnosis is confirmed after a repeat test on a different day.

Research shows that some increase in blood glucose levels often comes with age. This may be caused by weight gain, especially when fat builds up around the waist.

Managing Diabetes

There are things you can do to take control of your diabetes.

  • Meal planning and eating correctly are key to managing blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels. To plan meals and eat right, you need to understand how different foods affect your glucose levels. A good meal plan will take into account your food likes and dislikes, goals for weight control, and daily physical activity. Health care professionals can work with you to create a personalized meal plan.
  • Physical activity is very important in dealing with diabetes. Taking part in a regular fitness program can improve blood glucose levels in older people with diabetes. A health care professional can help plan a physical activity program just right for you.
  • Medications are also central to controlling diabetes for many people. Doctors may prescribe oral medicines (those taken by mouth), insulin, or a combination of both as needed. People with type 2 diabetes may not need to take diabetes medications if they can reach glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol goals through meal planning, eating the right foods, and physical activity.
  • Keeping track of how well your diabetes care plan is working is important. Check blood glucose levels and monitor your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

What else can you do?

Eye Exams. People with diabetes should have an eye exam every year. Finding and treating eye problems early can help prevent more serious conditions later on.

Kidney Check. A yearly urine test for a protein called albumin will show whether your kidneys are affected by diabetes.

Foot Care. Diabetes can reduce blood supply to arms and legs and cause numbness in the feet. People with diabetes should check their feet every day and watch for any redness or patches of heat. Sores, blisters, breaks in the skin, infections, or build-up of calluses should be checked right away by a doctor specializing in foot care (podiatrist) or a family doctor.

Skin Care. People with diabetes can protect their skin by keeping it clean, using skin softeners to treat dryness, and taking care of minor cuts and bruises to prevent infections and other problems.

Care of Teeth and Gums. Working closely with a dentist is very important. Teeth and gums need special attention to avoid serious infections.

Flu Shots and Pneumonia Vaccine. Getting a yearly flu shot and a pneumonia vaccine at least once will help keep people with diabetes healthy. If 5 years or more have passed since your pneumonia shot, ask your doctor if you should be revaccinated.


People with diabetes who are on Medicare now receive coverage for supplies such as glucose monitors, test strips, and lancets. For more information about what is covered, call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).

The following organizations offer a wealth of information, as well as free or low-cost resources for people with diabetes, health care professionals, and the general public.

National Diabetes Education Program
One Diabetes Way Bethesda, MD 20814-9692

American Diabetes Association
1701 North Beauregard Street Alexandria, VA 22311
1-800-DIABETES (1-800-342-2383)

National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse (NDIC)
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
One Information Way Bethesda, MD 20892-3560

For additional information, please visit the Senior Health Center and Diabetes Center.

Source: National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Aging

Last Editorial Review: 3/20/2006