Eat Better, Get Moving, but Don’t Fret Over Diabetes


By Judith Graham

Friday, June 24, 2022 (Kaiser Information) — Virtually half of older adults — greater than 26 million individuals 65 and older — have prediabetes, based on the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention. How involved ought to they be?

Not very, say some specialists. Prediabetes — a time period that refers to above-normal however not extraordinarily excessive blood sugar levels — isn’t a illness, and it doesn’t suggest that older adults who’ve it should inevitably develop Type 2 diabetes, they observe.

“For many older sufferers, the prospect of progressing from prediabetes to diabetes just isn’t that top,” mentioned Dr. Robert Lash, chief medical officer of the Endocrine Society, commenting on current analysis. “But labeling individuals with prediabetes might make them fearful and anxious.”

Different specialists consider it’s vital to determine prediabetes, particularly if this evokes older adults to get extra physical activity, shed some pounds, and eat more healthy diets to assist deliver blood sugar below management.

“All the time a prognosis of prediabetes must be taken critically,” mentioned Dr. Rodica Busui, president-elect of medication and science on the American Diabetes Affiliation, which recommends adults 45 and older get screened for prediabetes no less than as soon as each three years. The CDC and the American Medical Affiliation make an analogous level of their ongoing “Do I Have Diabetes?” marketing campaign.

Nonetheless, many older adults aren’t positive what they need to be doing in the event that they’re informed they’ve prediabetes. Nancy Selvin, 79, of Berkeley, California, is amongst them.

At 5 ft and 106 kilos, Selvin, a ceramic artist, is slim and in good bodily form. She takes a rigorous hourlong train class thrice every week and eats a Mediterranean-style weight-reduction plan. But Selvin has felt alarmed since studying final 12 months her blood sugar was barely above regular.

“I’m afraid of being diabetic,” she mentioned.

Two current studies about prediabetes within the older inhabitants are stimulating heightened curiosity on this matter. Till their publication, most research centered on prediabetes in middle-aged adults, leaving the importance of this situation in older adults unsure.

The most recent research by researchers on the CDC, revealed in April in JAMA Community Open, examined information about greater than 50,000 older sufferers with prediabetes between January 2010 and December 2018. Simply over 5% of those sufferers progressed to diabetes yearly, it discovered.

Researchers used a measure of blood sugar ranges over time, hemoglobin A1C. Prediabetes is signified by A1C ranges of 5.7% to six.4% or a fasting plasma glucose check studying of 100 to 125 milligrams per deciliter, based on the diabetes affiliation. (This glucose check evaluates blood sugar after an individual hasn’t eaten something for no less than eight hours.)

Of observe, research outcomes present that obese older adults with prediabetes had been at considerably heightened danger of creating diabetes. Additionally in danger had been Black seniors, these with a family history of diabetes, low-income seniors, and older adults on the higher finish (6%-6.4%) of the A1C prediabetes vary. Males had been at barely greater danger than ladies.

The findings can assist suppliers personalize take care of older adults, Busui mentioned.

Additionally they verify the significance of directing older individuals with prediabetes — particularly those that are most susceptible — to way of life intervention packages, mentioned Alain Koyama, the research’s lead creator and an epidemiologist on the CDC.

Since 2018, Medicare has lined the Diabetes Prevention Program, a set of lessons provided at YMCAs and in different neighborhood settings designed to assist seniors with prediabetes eat more healthy diets, shed some pounds, and get extra bodily exercise. Analysis has proven the prevention program lowers the danger of diabetes by 71% in individuals 60 and older. However solely a small fraction of individuals eligible have enrolled.

One other research, revealed in JAMA Inside Drugs final 12 months, helps places prediabetes in additional perspective. Over the course of 6.5 years, it confirmed, fewer than 12% of seniors with prediabetes progressed to full-fledged diabetes. In contrast, a bigger portion both died of different causes or shifted again to regular blood sugar ranges over the research interval.

The takeaway? “We all know that it’s frequent in older adults to have mildly elevated glucose ranges, however this doesn’t have the identical that means that it might in youthful people — it doesn’t imply you’re going to get diabetes, go blind, or lose your leg,” mentioned Elizabeth Selvin, daughter of Nancy Selvin and a co-author of the research. She can be a professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg College of Public Well being.

“Virtually nobody develops the [diabetes] issues we’re actually fearful about in youthful individuals.”

“It’s OK to inform older adults with prediabetes to train extra and eat carbohydrates evenly all through the day,” mentioned Dr. Medha Munshi, director of the geriatric diabetes program at Joslin Diabetes Middle, an affiliate of the Harvard Medical College. “But it surely’s vital to teach sufferers that this isn’t a illness that’s inevitably going to make you diabetic and stress you out.”

Many older individuals have barely elevated blood sugar as a result of they produce much less insulin and course of it much less effectively. Whereas that is factored into scientific diabetes tips, it hasn’t been integrated in prediabetes tips, she famous.

Aggressive remedies for prediabetes, such because the medicine metformin, must be prevented, based on Dr. Victor Montori, an endocrinologist and professor of medication on the Mayo Clinic. “In case you get diabetes, you may be prescribed metformin. But it surely’s simply nonsense to present you metformin now, as a result of you might be in danger, to scale back the prospect that you simply’ll want metformin later.”

Sadly, some docs are prescribing medicine to older adults with prediabetes, and lots of aren’t spending time discussing the implications of this situation with sufferers.

That was true for Elaine Hissam, 74, of Parkersburg, West Virginia, who grew to become alarmed final summer season when she scored 5.8% on an A1C check. Hissam’s mom developed diabetes in maturity, and Hissam dreaded the chance that will occur to her too.

On the time, Hissam was going to train lessons 5 days every week and strolling 4 to six miles every day as properly. When her physician suggested “watch what you eat,” Hissam minimize out a lot of the sugar and carbohydrates in her weight-reduction plan and dropped 9 kilos. However when she had one other A1C check at first of this 12 months, it had dropped solely barely, to five.6%.

“My physician actually didn’t have a lot to say once I requested, ‘Why wasn’t there extra of a change?’” Hissam mentioned.

Specialists I spoke with mentioned fluctuations in check outcomes are frequent, particularly across the decrease and higher ends of the prediabetes vary. In line with the CDC research, 2.8% of prediabetic seniors with A1C levels of 5.7% to five.9% convert to diabetes every year.

Nancy Selvin, who realized final 12 months that her A1C degree had climbed to six.3% from 5.9%, mentioned she’s been making an attempt to lose 6 kilos with out success since getting these check outcomes. Her physician has informed Selvin to not fear however prescribed a statin to scale back the potential for cardiovascular issues, since prediabetes is related to an elevated danger of coronary heart illness.

That conforms with one of many conclusions of the Johns Hopkins prediabetes research final 12 months. “Taken as a complete, the present proof means that heart problems and mortality must be the main focus of illness prevention amongst older adults relatively than prediabetes progression,” the researchers wrote.

For her half, Libby Christianson, 63, of Solar Metropolis, Arizona, began strolling extra usually and consuming extra protein after studying final summer season that her A1C degree was 5.7%. “When my physician mentioned, ‘You’re prediabetic,’ I used to be shocked as a result of I’ve at all times considered myself as being a really wholesome individual,” she mentioned.

“If prediabetes is a kick within the butt to maneuver individuals to more healthy behaviors, I’m advantageous with that,” mentioned Dr. Kenneth Lam, a geriatrician on the College of California-San Francisco. “However when you’re older, actually over age 75, and it is a new prognosis, it’s not one thing I’d fear about. I’m fairly positive that diabetes isn’t going to matter in your lifetime.”

We’re keen to listen to from readers about questions you’d like answered, issues you’ve been having along with your care, and recommendation you want in coping with the well being care system. Go to to submit your requests or ideas.

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