Diabetes and Healthy Aging

Managing Type 2 diabetes is important at any age, but it is especially important as you get older.  Make diabetes management a priority to help lower your chances of health problems. Read on to learn how to live well by managing your diabetes.

What is Type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is a disease in which your pancreas does not produce enough insulin, or your body does not properly use the insulin it makes. This means that your body does not use glucose properly and it builds up in your blood. Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes. 

What other health problems are linked to diabetes?

Over time, if diabetes is not managed well, the high levels of blood glucose can cause other serious health problems, such as:

  • Heart disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Eye disease
  • Nerve damage

The good news is that diabetes can be managed well with healthy lifestyle choices.

Are older adults at greater risk for health problems?

Yes. If you have diabetes, the chances of developing health problems goes up as you get older. For example, men over 45 and women over 50 years of age who have diabetes are more likely to develop heart disease.  Diabetes is a progressive condition. This means that managing diabetes can become more difficult as you age.

What can I do to lower my risk of diabetes related health problems?

Eating healthy, being physically active and being at a healthy weight can help you manage your diabetes. 

Take charge of your diabetes with these steps: 

  • Eat well: Healthy eating starts with good planning. Try our Diabetes Menu Planner to plan for seven days of meals and snacks.
  • Be physically active: Getting out and being active helps to manage blood sugar levels and can also help you manage your weight.  Choose activities that you enjoy and ones you can do with family or friends.  Every 10 minutes of physical activity counts. Look for tips on how to get started here.
  • Be proactive: Make regular appointments to see your health care professionals like your doctor, dietitian, eye doctor and chiropodist.  Use the Nutri-eSCREEN online self-assessment tool to find out what you are doing well and where you can improve when it comes to healthy eating.
  • Monitor your blood glucose levels regularly: Managing your blood glucose levels is the best way to lower your chances of developing a diabetes related health problem. Health problems are more common when diabetes is not managed properly and blood glucose levels stay high over a long period of time.
  • Take medications prescribed by your doctor: Even if you are eating healthy and are exercising regularly, you may still need to take medication to help keep your blood glucose, cholesterol and blood pressure under control.  If you have questions about the medications you are taking, talk with your diabetes care team.

How do I know if my blood glucose levels are well managed?

Follow your doctor’s or nurse’s advice on how to monitor your blood glucose levels. Use a blood glucose meter if you have one.

Generally, adults with Type 2 diabetes should aim to have their blood glucose levels between 4-7 mmol/L first thing in the morning or before a meal.  Two hours after eating, blood glucose levels should be between 5-10mmol/L.  Your doctor or nurse may have more specific target levels for you. Speak to your doctor or nurse about what target levels you should aim for. 

Bottom Line

If you have diabetes, the chances of developing health problems goes up as you get older.  Make managing your diabetes a priority to help lower your chances of complications and help you live well as you age.

You might also be interested in:

Lower your risk of diabetes-related complications

Diabetes Menu Plan for prevention and management

Resources for diabetes prevention and management

Last Update – October 9, 2016

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If you have questions about what you've read here, or other questions about food, nutrition or healthy eating, click to email our Registered Dietitians or call 1-877-510-5102.