Tribune Print Share Text

Know your goals when treating diabetes

Created date

January 22nd, 2013

Did you know that one in four Americans over age 65 has diabetes and that this serious condition is expected to become even more common? Diabetes is characterized by high blood sugar levels, and it can be associated with heart disease, kidney disease, vision loss, and other significant complications. Fortunately, we have learned a lot about diabetes. The American Diabetes Association and the American Geriatrics Society recently wrote a consensus report summarizing what we can do to prevent and treat this condition. On the prevention side, the first recommendation is to get screened have a blood test to check your blood sugar. Up to 50% of seniors have prediabetes or mild elevations of their sugar level with no symptoms at all. If you have prediabetes, modifications in your diet and physical activity can make a difference and keep you from developing the full-blown condition.

A customized approach

If you already have diabetes, there is much you can do to prevent complications and live well. Medical research over the past 50 years provides insight and a general roadmap for us all to follow. First, it is essential to understand diabetes in the context of your whole being rather than simply focusing on a specific blood sugar level. With this perspective, you can individualize your care plan in discussions with your medical providers. Goals may be different depending on factors such as your age, other health conditions, and your personal preferences. Blood pressure control, managing your cholesterol, and having regular checkups, including eye and foot exams, are among the topics to review with your provider. It is certainly important to control your blood pressure and bring your sugar down, but one lesson we have learned in the last ten years is that aggressive control and management can lead to problems depending on your personal situation. For frail seniors, it appears that, in general, a middle-of-the-road treatment approach is often associated with the best outcomes. While we still have much to learn about diabetes, we can all take heart in the many advances in preventing and treating this condition that have come about. Talk with your doctor about diabetes ask questions and develop a prevention and treatment plan that suits your needs and gives you the very best quality of life. In good health, Dr. Narrett