As you get older, your health and lifestyle can change. In turn, this may affect your efforts to manage type 2 diabetes. You can take steps at any age to improve self-care and optimize your health.
Here are five tips that can help you manage type 2 diabetes as you get older.
Learn about your risk factors for complications
Older adults are more likely than younger adults to develop complications from type 2 diabetes, including heart disease and stroke. However, your age is only one factor that affects your chances for complications. You can’t control your age, but you can control other risk factors.
Ask your healthcare provider about how your medical history and lifestyle choices can affect your health, including your risk of complications from type 2 diabetes. They can help you develop a plan to manage the risk factors within your control by using lifestyle changes, medical treatments, or both.
Get regular health screenings
Type 2 diabetes can affect many parts of your body, including your blood vessels, nervous system, kidneys, eyes, skin, and other organs. To help monitor and manage your risk of complications, it’s important to follow your doctor’s recommendations for routine preventive health screenings.
For example, your doctor might recommend:
- blood testing to monitor your blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels
- blood or urine testing to check for signs of kidney damage
- EKG or other heart tests to look for coronary artery disease
- ankle-brachial testing to check for peripheral artery disease
- nerve function testing to check for nerve damage
- eye exams to check for vision loss
- mental health screenings to check for signs and symptoms of depression, anxiety, dementia, or memory loss
- bone density scans to check for osteoporosis
Your recommended screening schedule may vary, depending on your age and health history. As you get older, your doctor might recommend more frequent health screenings. These screenings can help you identify potential complications early and get the treatment you need.
Ask your pharmacist about drug interactions
Compared with younger adults, older adults are more likely to take multiple medications. Some medications and supplements can interact with others. Sometimes, these interactions cause uncomfortable or even dangerous side effects.
Before you take a new medication or supplement, ask your doctor or pharmacist if it could interact with anything you currently take. In some cases, your doctor might adjust your prescribed treatment plan to limit the risk of drug interactions. If you think you might be experiencing side effects from a medication or supplement, talk to your doctor right away.
Talk to your doctor about your cholesterol levels
Type 2 diabetes and age both increase your risk of high cholesterol, which in turn boosts your chances of coronary heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.
To lower your risk, statin therapy may help. Statins are a group of medications that lower cholesterol in the blood.
A recent study found that statin therapy reduced the risk of coronary heart disease in older adults with type 2 diabetes, between the ages of 75 and 84. Several studies suggest that statin therapy may also provide protective benefits to adults age 65 and older.
Talk to your doctor about your cholesterol levels. They can discuss whether you have high cholesterol or if you’re at significant risk. If needed, your doctor can recommend a treatment plan. The decision to start a statin drug is usually made by taking all of your medical conditions into account.
Incorporate strength training into your routine
Muscle mass and strength tend to decline with age, especially in people with diabetes. This can make it harder for you to manage your weight, as well as complete day-to-day activities.
For optimum fitness, try to include at least two sessions of muscle-strengthening activities in your weekly routine. The American Diabetes Association also encourages people to get at least 150 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic activity per week.
If you have arthritis, heart disease, or other health conditions, talk to your doctor before changing your exercise routine. Your doctor or physical therapist can help you develop an exercise plan that’s safe for you.
No matter your age, your healthcare providers can help you manage type 2 diabetes and your risk factors for complications. As you get older, they might encourage you to get more frequent health screenings or adjust your prescribed treatment plan. They can also help you learn how to maintain a healthy lifestyle as your physical needs and abilities change.