Managing Diabetes as You Age

Today more than a quarter of U.S. adults ages 65 and older have diabetes. The most common diabetes is type 2. It occurs when your body becomes resistant to a hormone called insulin and doesn’t use it well.

A nurse takes a glucose finger prick test from a patient's finger.

How Diabetes Affects Your Health

Older adults are more likely to experience complications due to type 2 diabetes, such as:

  • Heart disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Stroke
  • Nerve damage
  • Eye problems
  • Skin infections
  • Hearing loss
  • Dental problems and gum disease

Your Plan of Action

Taking steps every day to manage your diabetes will help reduce your risk of developing complications as you age. Here are three key things you can do that will make a difference.

  • Take Your Medication
    • The initial treatment of type 2 diabetes is usually done with pills. As you age, you’re more likely to need insulin to treat type 2 diabetes. It’s important to take all your medication exactly as your health care provider prescribes.
  • Eat Healthy Meals
    • When you have diabetes, you don’t have to follow a special diet. Instead, focus on eating healthy, well-balanced meals that provide your body with the nutrients it needs. The American Diabetes Association recommends using a tool called “Create Your Plate.” This approach helps make sure you fill your plate with a variety of food groups. It also keeps your serving sizes in check, which can help you manage your weight.
  • Be Physically Active
    • Exercise helps control your weight. If you have diabetes and are overweight, losing just 10 to 15 pounds can make a difference. Exercise offers additional benefits for managing diabetes. For example, increasing your physical activity can help.

Managing diabetes is a team effort. Remember that you’re always the most important person on your diabetes care team. Whenever you have questions or notice any changes in your health, discuss them with the other members of your care team.

Sources: American Diabetes Association, Diabetes Care, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

Find More Tips to Live Better With Diabetes

Page updated 6-15-2023

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