Diabetes is among the biggest threats to American health today.
The information below is designed to serve as a senior’s guide to living with diabetes. Also included is a list of helpful resources for further education, treatment and tools that older adults may utilize in their life with diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes most often develops at a young age, while type 2 diabetes poses the biggest risk for older adults.
While type 1 diabetes can be rooted in a person’s natural ability to process sugar, type 2 diabetes is often the result of number of factors, such as:
There are also two naturally inherited factors that can contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes: race and genetics.
Prediabetes is a condition in which a person's blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but they're not high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes.
If you have prediabetes, your body gradually begins to reject insulin as a way of converting sugar to energy. If steps are not taken to reverse prediabetes, it is likely to lead to full diagnosis of type 2 diabetes.
Symptoms of type 2 diabetes generally develop slowly and therefore can easily go unnoticed.
Talk to your doctor if you believe you are experiencing any of the following:
Type 2 diabetes can be detected by testing a blood sample, and there are a few different ways doctors may test for it.
When detected early and when appropriate steps are taken, the effects of type 2 diabetes can be minimized and even reversed.
If no action is taken, however, type 2 diabetes can lead to:
When left untreated, diabetes may also lead to hyperosmolar hyperglycemic nonketotic syndrome (HHNS), which triggers severe increases in blood sugar levels and can lead to hospitalization.
Some people with type 2 diabetes may be able to properly manage their condition through lifestyle changes around how they eat and how often they exercise.
Some other seniors may need a combination of lifestyle changes as well as medication.
Below are some of the different ways to prevent, manage and treat type 2 diabetes.
Glucose levels that are too high or too low can be dangerous to your health.
Regularly check your blood sugar levels as directed by your doctor, using a blood glucose meter or continuous glucose monitor to keep your diabetes in check.
The food you eat can have a large impact on your glucose level.
Be sure to include complex carbohydrates in your diet. These can include foods such as:
You should also try to avoid sugary drinks such as soda.
Your insulin resistance decreases when you exercise, allowing your cells to process glucose more effectively.
Regular exercise also helps to fight against other conditions related to diabetes, such as heart disease and obesity.
If you’ve been prescribed any medication for your diabetes, take it as directed, even on days when you’re feeling good.
Tell your doctor about any side effects of your prescriptions or if you’re having difficulty managing and keeping track of your medication schedule.
Type 2 diabetes often goes hand-in-hand with high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
Have your blood pressure and cholesterol levels checked every year during an annual checkup. Talk to your doctor to determine your desired cholesterol range and to learn how you can get to that level and maintain it.
Smokers are up to 40% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.3
According to the CDC, people with diabetes who smoke are more likely than non-smokers to have difficulty with insulin dosing and controlling their diabetes.
There are multiple types of eye diseases that can develop as a result of diabetes.
All of these conditions can lead to permanent vision loss and impairment. Undergo a vision exam every year to identify and treat eye problems early.
Diabetes can greatly affect your kidneys and can even cause them to fail.
Make sure that you get a yearly urine or blood test to test the health of your kidneys.
Having diabetes puts you at an increased risk for the flu, so be sure to stay updated on these shots before each flu season.
You should also make sure that your pneumonia vaccine is up to date, as you could be at an increased risk for pneumonia if you have diabetes.
People with diabetes are at an increased risk for gum disease, gingivitis and periodontitis. Gum disease can in turn affect your ability to control blood sugar levels.
Visit your dentist twice a year for regular cleanings and checkups, and practice good oral hygiene habits, such as properly brushing your teeth 2-3 times a day.
Check over your feet every day for any sign of red patches, sores, blisters, breaks in the skin, infections or calluses.
Talk to your doctor if you notice any issues with your feet, as having diabetes puts you at an increased risk for developing neuropathy (nerve loss), foot ulcers and other serious conditions.
People who have type 2 diabetes are twice as likely to develop liver or pancreatic cancer, and they also have an increased risk for colon, bladder and breast cancer.4
Get properly screened for these and other types of cancer as often as recommended by your doctor.
If you are are enrolled in Medicare, there are a number of ways you may be able to get health care coverage for your diabetes treatment and management.
Each part of Medicare (Parts A, B, C and D, as well as Medicare Supplement Insurance) can offer coverage that diabetic beneficiaries can use to help them pay for the care they need.
Medicare Part A provides coverage for inpatient care at facilities such as hospitals and skilled nursing facilities. People with diabetes may – at some point – require inpatient hospital care, which Part A can help cover.
Two potentially life-threatening complications of diabetes that could result in needing hospital care include:
Medicare Part B provides coverage for outpatient care such as doctor's office visits and certain preventive care such as shots and vaccines.
Part B also covers durable medical equipment (DME), which can include many of the items that someone with diabetes might need.
While certain restrictions apply based on your individual circumstances, Part B coverage can include:
You can always talk with your doctor to learn more about how your diabetes treatment may be covered by Medicare.
Medicare Part C plans are also called Medicare Advantage plans.
Medicare Advantage plans are sold by private insurance companies, and they provide coverage for everything that Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) covers.
Some Medicare Advantage plans may also provide coverage for routine vision and dental care, prescription drugs, fitness and wellness program memberships and more.
There are special types of Medicare Advantage plans called Medicare Special Needs Plans (SNPs). These plans are designed to help support beneficiaries who have specific chronic conditions.
Depending on where you live, you may have access to a Medicare SNP that offers benefits that specifically support diabetic beneficiaries.
Medicare Part D provides coverage exclusively for prescription drugs, which Original Medicare doesn't typically cover.
Part D plans are sold by private insurance companies, so coverage and costs may vary. Some Part D plans can help pay for many of the drugs commonly used to treat type 2 diabetes.
Medicare Supplement Insurance (also known as Medigap) can help pay for some of the out-of-pocket costs that Medicare Part A and Part B don't cover, such as deductibles, coinsurance, copayments and more.
Here is a list of 25 of the top resources for diabetes education, prevention, management, treatment and financial assistance.
The American Diabetes Association is an authoritative voice on diabetes and provides information and education, advocacy, research, recipes and additional resources for care.
The CDC is among the most trusted resources for statistics and information related to diabetes and other health conditions.
The CDC also funds diabetes awareness campaigns and provides educational tools to help with managing and preventing diabetes through videos, podcasts, social media platforms and more.
The NIDDK conducts research for and provides information about treatments for diabetes.
AADE is a membership organization dedicated to improving care for people with prediabetes and diabetes through education, management and support. AADE members include nurses, dietitians, pharmacists, exercise specialists and more.
Diabetes 24/7 is a personal health record where you can manage your diabetes and exchange information with your health care team. The platform integrates with Microsoft’s HealthVault so you can securely import and share data such as cholesterol levels or medications with doctors, pharmacies and medical labs.
MyHealthAdvisor is an online tool that helps you track what you eat. You can also find recipes for diabetes-friendly dishes and tips for healthy substitute food options.
This free 12-month program is designed for people who have been newly-diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. The program provides ongoing resources, support and access to online communities and local events to help better understand and manage the disease.
This website offers diabetes educational resources such as free pamphlets, seminars, webcasts, online courses and more.
This team of health experts and writers shares a wealth of diabetes knowledge dedicated to the treatment, management and testing of diabetes.
This free online resource for people with type 2 diabetes and their families is approved by medical professionals and has tools and videos for help with managing the disease.
The Diabetes Diet Center provides healthy recipes and diets for people with diabetes, along with a selection of cookbooks and even a frozen meal program.
This non-profit charity organization provides easy-to-understand diabetes care information in multiple languages.
OnTrackDiabates is a website and mobile app that lends support to people with diabates, their families and caregivers. The app and the website contain articles, tips, inspirational stories, podcasts and webinars, along with recipes and workout videos.
AACE, or the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, includes a database of programs designed help qualifying diabetics pay for their medications.
This one-stop shop for diabetes patients includes news, interviews, blogs, tools, tips, strategies and other information related to helping people care for their diabetes.
Diabetes Self-Management publishes a bimonthly magazine, weekly newsletter, books and a blog, all devoted to helping people better manage their diabetes.
Lilly Diabates develops programs and partnerships that provide education and inspiration to people living with diabetes.
dLife aims to break out of the clinical box and tackle diabetes through more creative ways of self-management that involve the emotional, motivational and practical needs of people living with diabetes.
The Freestyle Promise Program provides Abbott diabetes care products to people with diabetes.
Individuals with diabetes can get assistance for BD Ultra-Fine insulin syringes through this program.
The Charles Ray Ⅲ Diabetes Association, Inc. provides discounted prices for pre-owned insulin pumps and supplies along with free glucose meters and testing strips for qualifying diabetics.
Diabetes patients can receive free glucose meters and discounted pricing on other diabetes care supplies.
The Lower Extremity Amputation Prevention Program provides free monofilament for neuropathy testing for people with diabetes.
This program provides certain diabetes medications free of charge.
SafeNetRx provides certain diabetic supplies at deeply discounted rates.
Our resource guides provide helpful information and assistance for a range of topics such as prescription drug costs, alcohol abuse, fall prevention, senior hunger and more.