How good diabetes management can help seniors reduce risks and stay healthy

This year’s World Diabetes Day focuses on Women and Diabetes. The campaign will promote the importance of affordable access for all women at risk or living with diabetes, to the essential treatments and management information they require to achieve optimal success with this growing disease.

According to Statistics Canada, there are over 450 thousand Canadian women over the age of 65 living with diabetes. Canadian seniors represent almost 45 per cent of Canadians with diabetes, according to the Public Health Agency. This means that screening for type 2 diabetes is of the utmost importance, as it ensures early diagnosis and treatment to reduce the risk of serious complications such as blindness, heart disease and kidney damage.

It is possible to have type 2 diabetes without noticing any symptoms. Regular check-ups with your doctor to screen for pre-diabetes, or diabetes, are recommended to help prevent the disease or diagnose it early.

Self-management education and support

Self-management education and support from a diabetes care team can help you or your loved one make lifestyle adjustments to manage diabetes effectively and reduce complication risks. Healthy eating, regular aerobic and resistance exercise, daily monitoring of blood sugar, and proper foot care are key steps. So are regular medical tests for blood sugar levels (hemoglobin A1C), blood pressure, cholesterol and eye health, according to the Canadian Diabetes Association (CDA).

Selection of food that is good for the heart

Pharmacists, nurse educators, dietitians and social workers can be part of your care team and offer valuable expertise about managing diabetes. The CDA partners with community pharmacies across Canada through the Community Pharmacy Outreach Program to provide resources and events such as diabetes days, screenings and foot clinics.

Individualized diabetes management for seniors

An individualized approach to managing diabetes is essential to take into account differences in fitness, ability and coexisting medical conditions. For instance, seniors with diabetes are more susceptible to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and often don’t realize they have it, says the Yale School of Medicine. Even a mild episode of hypoglycemia, resulting in dizziness or weakness, increases the risk of a fall and fracture.

Preventing low blood sugar in older adults with diabetes is critical—especially for people who need more daily support or have cognitive impairment—even if higher blood sugar targets must be used, CDA clinical practice guidelines say.

For help learning how to manage diabetes and improve your overall health, speak with your doctor and pharmacist. You can also contact the CDA to find a Diabetes Education Centre in your area or sign up for its telephone-based virtual health coaching service.