How to prevent and manage type 2 diabetes for seniors

Excerpt: About half of Canadians with type 2 diabetes are over 65. You can lower the risk by being physically active, maintaining a healthy weight and eating regular balanced meals. Knowing the symptoms and having regular checkups are important for early detection and diagnosis. Good diabetes management through healthy food choices, control of blood sugar and blood pressure, and appropriate medication can help to prevent or delay serious complications.


The risk of developing type 2 diabetes increases with age and is about 3 times as high at 75 as at 50,* reports the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). In Canada, 48% of people living with diabetes are over 65,* according to Diabetes Care Community.

It’s important for older adults to be proactive in taking steps to prevent or detect diabetes early, and to manage this lifelong condition effectively to prevent potential complications such as heart and kidney disease, stroke, nerve damage, blindness, or vascular dementia,* says Mayo Clinic.

How do I lower my risk of diabetes?

There is no single cause of type 2 diabetes, but you can prevent or lower the risk of developing it by being physically active, maintaining a healthy weight, limiting intake of fat and sugar, eating regular balanced meals, keeping your cholesterol and other blood fats within recommended levels, controlling blood pressure, and not smoking,* advises Canada Public Health Services.

What are the symptoms of diabetes?

Up to 40% of Canadians who meet the blood sugar criteria for type 2 diabetes have undiagnosed diabetes,* reported a University of Toronto study. The earlier that diabetes is detected and diagnosed, the sooner you can take action to stay well and prevent complications,* says Diabetes Canada.

To detect type 2 diabetes early, be aware of the most common signs and symptoms. These may include unusual thirst, frequent urination, weight gain or loss, extreme fatigue or lack of energy, blurred vision, frequent or recurring infections, cuts and bruises that are slow to heal, and tingling in the hands or feet,* according to Diabetes Canada.

However, many people with type 2 diabetes display no symptoms at all. Regular checkups with your doctor to screen for pre-diabetes, or diabetes,* are recommended to help prevent diabetes or diagnose it early.

How do I manage diabetes?

To stay healthy with diabetes and prevent or delay complications, track your blood sugar levels, make healthy food choices, be active and take your medications as prescribed,* advises the National Institute on Aging (NIA). The Diabetes Canada clinical practice guidelines recommend that otherwise healthy seniors follow the same blood glucose and A1C targets as younger adults.* But unhealthy older adults are more susceptible to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and higher blood sugar targets* should be used.

Good diabetes management also involves controlling blood pressure and cholesterol, having eye exams and checking kidney function annually, protecting your skin and feet, and caring for your teeth and gums,* says NIA.


*The following sources are references for this blog, in order of appearance:

1. Public Health Agency of Canada. “Diabetes in Canada. Highlights from the Canadian Chronic Disease Surveillance System.” (2017), online: https://www.canada.ca/content/dam/phac-aspc/documents/services/publications/diseases-conditions/diabetes-canada-highlights-chronic-disease-surveillance-system/diabetes-in-canada-eng.pdf

2. Diabetes Care Community. “Diabetes and seniors. (2019), online: https://www.diabetescarecommunity.ca/diabetes-overview/diabetes-and-seniors/

3. Mayo Clinic. “Diabetes and Alzeimer’s linked.” (2019), online: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/type-2-diabetes/in-depth/diabetes-and-alzheimers/art-20046987

4. Canada Public Health Services. “Type 2 diabetes.” (2018), online: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/type-2-diabetes.html

5. University of Toronto. “Prevalence of prediabetes and undiagnosed diabetes in Canada (2007-2011) according to fasting plasma glucose and HbA1c screening criteria.” (2015), online: https://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/38/7/1299

6. Diabetes Canada. “Screening for diabetes in adults.” (2018), online: https://www.diabetes.ca/health-care-providers/clinical-practice-guidelines/chapter-4#panel-tab_FullText

7. Diabetes Canada. “Signs and symptoms.” (2019), online: https://www.diabetes.ca/signs,-risks---prevention/signs---symptoms

8. National Institute on Aging. “Diabetes in older people.” (2019), online: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/diabetes-older-people