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Type 2 Diabetes In The Older Adult


What do I need to know about type 2 diabetes?

The risk for type 2 diabetes increases as a person gets older. With type 2 diabetes, your body does not make enough insulin. Also, your body does not use insulin well. Diabetes cannot be cured but it can be managed.

What can I do to manage diabetes and prevent problems?

Sometimes type 2 diabetes can be managed with lifestyle changes. These changes may include changes in nutrition and activity.

  • Work with your diabetes care team to create plans to meet your needs. Your diabetes care team may include a physician, nurse practitioner, and physician assistant. It may also include a diabetes nurse educator, dietitian, and an exercise specialist. Family members, or others who are close to you, may also be part of the team. You and your team will make goals and plans to manage diabetes and other health problems. The plans and goals will be specific to your needs.
  • Manage other health issues as directed. Health issues may include high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and heart problems. Together you and your care team can create a plan to manage any other health issues.
  • Try to be active for 30 to 60 minutes most days of the week. Activity can help keep your blood sugar level steady and decrease your risk for heart disease. Activity can help improve your balance and strength. It can also decrease your risk for falls. Start slowly. Activity can be done in 10 minute intervals.
    • Set a goal for aerobic activity for 30 minutes at least 5 times a week. Aerobic activity helps your heart stay strong. Aerobic activity includes walking, bicycling, dancing, swimming, and raking leaves.
    • Set a strength training goal of 2 times a week. Strength training helps you keep the muscles you have and build new ones. Strength training includes lifting weights, climbing stairs, doing yoga, and tai chi.
    • Stay steady on your on your feet with balancing activities. These include walking backwards, standing on one foot, and walking heel to toe in a straight line.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Ask how much you should weigh. A healthy weight can help you control your diabetes and prevent heart disease. Ask your provider to help you create a weight loss plan if you are overweight. Weight loss of 10 to 15 pounds can help make a difference in managing your diabetes. Together you and your care team can set manageable weight loss goals.
  • Do not smoke. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. Do not use e-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco in place of cigarettes or to help you quit. They still contain nicotine.

What is diabetes education?

Diabetes education will start right away. Members of your care team teach you the following:

  • How to check your blood sugar level: You will learn what your blood sugar level should be. You will be given information on when to check your blood sugar level. You will learn what to do if your level is too high or too low. Write down the times of your checks and your levels. Take them to all follow-up appointments.
    How to check your blood sugar
  • About diabetes medicine: You and your family members will be taught how to draw up and give insulin, if needed. You will learn how much insulin you need and what time to inject insulin. You will be taught when not to give insulin. They will also teach you how to dispose of needles and syringes. If you need oral diabetes medicine, you will taught about side effects. You will also be taught when to take or not take the medicine.
  • About nutrition: A dietitian will help you make a meal plan to keep your blood sugar level steady. You will learn how food affects your blood sugar levels. You will also learn to keep track of sugar and starchy foods (carbohydrates). Do not skip meals. Your blood sugar level may drop too low if you have taken insulin and do not eat.

What else can I do to manage my diabetes?

  • Check your feet every day for sores. Look at your whole foot, including the bottom, and between and under your toes. Check for wounds, corns, and calluses. Use a mirror to see the bottom of your feet. The skin on your feet may be shiny, tight, dry, or darker than normal. Your feet may also be cold and pale. Feel your feet by running your hands along the tops, bottoms, sides, and between your toes. Redness, swelling, and warmth are signs of blood flow problems that can lead to a foot ulcer. Do not try to remove corns or calluses yourself.

  • Wear medical alert identification. Wear medical alert jewelry or carry a card that says you have diabetes. Ask your healthcare provider where to get these items.
    Medical alert ID bracelet
  • Ask about vaccines. You have a higher risk for serious illness if you get the flu, pneumonia, or hepatitis. Ask your healthcare provider if you should get a flu, pneumonia, shingles, or hepatitis B vaccine, and when to get the vaccine.
  • Get help from family and friends. You may need help checking your blood sugar level, giving insulin injections, or preparing your meals. Ask your family and friends to help you with these tasks. Talk to your care team if you need someone at home to help you.

Call 911 for any of the following:

  • You have any of the following signs of a stroke:
    • Numbness or drooping on one side of your face
    • Weakness in an arm or leg
    • Confusion or difficulty speaking
    • Dizziness, a severe headache, or vision loss
  • You have any of the following signs of a heart attack:
    • Squeezing, pressure, or pain in your chest
    • and any of the following:
      • Discomfort or pain in your back, neck, jaw, stomach, or arm
      • Shortness of breath
      • Nausea or vomiting
      • Lightheadedness or a sudden cold sweat

When should I contact my care team immediately?

  • Your blood sugar level is higher than your goal and does not come down with treatment.
  • You have signs of high blood sugar levels, such as blurred or double vision.
  • You have signs of high ketone levels, such as fruity, sweet smelling breath, or shallow breathing.
  • You have symptoms of a low blood sugar level, such as trouble thinking, sweating, or a pounding heartbeat.
  • Your blood sugar level is lower than normal and it does not improve with treatment.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You are vomiting or have diarrhea.
  • You have an upset stomach and cannot eat the foods on your meal plan.
  • You feel weak or more tired than usual.
  • You feel dizzy, have headaches, or are easily irritated.
  • Your skin is red, warm, dry, or swollen.
  • You have a wound that does not heal.
  • You have numbness in your arms or legs.
  • You have trouble coping with your illness, or you feel anxious or depressed.
  • You have problems with your memory.
  • You have changes in your vision.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.