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Tips to Help Older Adults Improve Diabetes Management (U.S. Version)

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On paper, it seems simple. Diabetes management is as easy as ABC: A1C test, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. But in practice, as you may know, keeping those measures of good diabetes management in check is actually much more challenging and complicated for patients, especially older adults.

Data from the ongoing National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey showed that about half of all patients with diabetes do not meet each ABC goal. While, according to the survey, diabetes management has significantly improved overall over the past 25 years, there is still much room for improvement.

Below you’ll find the recommended goals for each ABC measurement, along with tips and resources you can recommend to older patients to help them overcome barriers to good diabetes management.

A is for the A1C test, an estimate of blood sugar levels over the past three months. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) generally recommends that people with diabetes aim for an A1C of less than 7 percent and get tested at least twice a year.

Adjusting your patient’s treatment plan help them better regulate their blood sugar levels may include making diet recommendations. Download this Nutrition for Seniors workbook (PDF 411 KB) for patients to find practical tips and food lists that can help them maintain a nutritious diet.

B is for blood pressure, which ideally should measure 130/80 mmHg or less, the ADA advises. According to a study published in the February 2013 issue of Diabetes Care that measured how well these ABCs were met, only half of people with diabetes are treated for their blood pressure. That means half are not being treated.

Be sure to talk to your patients about blood pressure treatments and suggest how they can take a proactive approach to controlling blood pressure.

C is for cholesterol, specifically LDL (bad) cholesterol. The ADA advises LDL levels should be below 100 mg/dL. According to the study published in Diabetes Care, only half of people with diabetes are on statins to lower cholesterol—a percentage that should be much larger according to some doctors.

Talk to your patients about their cholesterol levels and the best treatments for their unique situation. The FDA recently issued new safety cautions for statin use, so your patients may have questions about that as well.

If your older patients struggle to practice proper self-care, consider recommending in-home senior care services. Professional caregivers such as those employed by the Home Instead® network are trained to encourage and facilitate healthy diet and lifestyle changes in accordance with a doctor’s recommendations to help older adults properly manage their diabetes and avoid complications.

The Home Instead network is a partner of the American Diabetes Association. For more resources about older adults and diabetes, visit the diabetes resources section of

Last revised: April 30, 2013

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