A Senior's Guide to Managing Diabetes

26.8% of Americans over 65 have diabetes, with 1.5 million more Americans being diagnosed as diabetic every year.  Another 25% of Americans are pre-diabetic, and need to be aware of what symptoms to look for.

While diabetes can be challenging, with the right help and approach you can effectively manage it with success.

We are going to help you understand more about diabetes, and how to manage it.

Symptoms (What to Look Out For)

Diabetes symptoms vary depending on how much your blood sugar is elevated. Some people, especially those with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes, may sometimes not experience symptoms. In type 1 diabetes, symptoms tend to come on quickly and be more severe.

Some of the signs and symptoms of type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes are:

  • Increased thirst

  • Frequent urination

  • Extreme hunger

  • Unexplained weight loss

  • Fatigue

  • Irritability

  • Blurred vision

  • Slow-healing sores

  • Frequent infections, such as gums or skin infections and vaginal infections

Type 1 diabetes can develop at any age, though it often appears during childhood or adolescence.

 

Type 2 diabetes, the more common type, can develop at any age, though it's more common in people older than 40.

What Puts You At Risk

Symptoms of type 1 diabetes often appear suddenly and are often the reason for checking blood sugar levels. Because symptoms of other types of diabetes and prediabetes come on more gradually or may not be evident, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) has recommended screening guidelines. The ADA recommends that the following people be screened for diabetes:

  • Anyone with a body mass index higher than 25, regardless of age, who has additional risk factors, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, lives a sedentary lifestyle, a history of heart disease, and who has a close relative with diabetes.

  • Anyone who has been diagnosed with prediabetes is advised to be tested every year.

 

How They Test For Diabetes (& Pre-diabetes)

  • A1C Test (Glycated Hemoglobin). This blood test, which doesn't require fasting, indicates your average blood sugar level for the past 2-3 months. It measures the percentage of blood sugar attached to hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying protein in red blood cells.

    The higher your blood sugar levels, the more hemoglobin you'll have with sugar attached. An A1C level of 6.5% or higher on two separate tests indicates that you have diabetes. An A1C between 5.7 and 6.4 % indicates prediabetes. Below 5.7 is considered normal.

If the A1C test results aren't consistent, the test isn't available, or you have certain conditions that can make the A1C test inaccurate, your doctor may use the following tests to diagnose diabetes:

  • Random Blood Sugar Test. A blood sample will be taken at a random time. Regardless of when you last ate, a blood sugar level of 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) — 11.1 millimoles per liter (mmol/L) — or higher suggests diabetes.

  • Fasting Blood Sugar Test. A blood sample will be taken after an overnight fast. A fasting blood sugar level less than 100 mg/dL (5.6 mmol/L) is normal. A fasting blood sugar level from 100-125 mg/dL (5.6-6.9 mmol/L) is prediabetes. If your result is over 126 mg/dL (7 mmol/L) on two separate tests, you have diabetes.

  • Oral Glucose Tolerance Test. You will fast overnight, and then the fasting blood sugar level is measured. Then you drink a sugary liquid, and blood sugar levels are tested periodically for the next two hours. A blood sugar level less than 140 mg/dL (7.8 mmol/L) is normal. A reading of more than 200 mg/dL (11.1 mmol/L) after two hours indicates diabetes. A reading between 140 and 199 mg/dL (7.8 mmol/L and 11.0 mmol/L) indicates prediabetes.

If type 1 diabetes is suspected, your urine will be tested to look for the presence of a byproduct produced when muscle and fat tissue are used for energy because the body doesn't have enough insulin to use the available glucose (ketones). Your doctor will also likely run a test to see if you have the destructive immune system cells associated with type 1 diabetes called autoantibodies.