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Diabetes in Older Adults

Over 20% of adults ages 65 and older are diagnosed with diabetes and it is estimated that 16% of adults ages 65 and older have diabetes and do not know it. Diabetes can cause long-term problems such as heart disease, poor blood circulation, blindness, kidney failure, nerve damage, chronic pain, and even cognitive decline.

What is Diabetes?

A disease in which blood glucose, or blood sugar, levels are too high. Glucose comes from what we eat and drink such as sugars and carbohydrates.

Type 1 Diabetes

The body does not make insulin. Insulin is a hormone that helps the glucose get into your cells to give them energy. Type 1 diabetes is commonly found in children and teenagers but can occur in adults too.

Type 2 Diabetes 

The body does not make or use insulin well. Without enough insulin, the glucose stays in the blood and does not get changed into energy.  Too much glucose can cause seizures and even death.


The blood sugar is higher than normal but not high enough to be called diabetes. Having prediabetes puts you at a higher risk of getting type 2 diabetes. 

If someone is determined to have Prediabetes, without making lifestyle changes like exercising or losing weight, they can get diabetes within 5 to 6 years.

Talk to your doctor about participating in a Diabetes Prevention Program which is a group-based program that teaches lifestyle changes to people who have prediabetes.

What should you do to prevent diabetes?

  • Get an annual screening – Medicare provides a free annual wellness visit.
  • Stay physically active.
  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.

How can I learn to manage my diabetes?

  • Work with your doctor or other health professionals on eating right, staying active and regularly monitoring your blood glucose.
  • Take your insulin and other medications as prescribed.
  • Get regular eye exams and foot exams.
  • Participate in a Diabetes Self-Management Program or other evidence-based self-management programs offered at no charge at your local Area Agency on Aging.
* Always check with your doctor or health care professional before beginning any new diet or exercise program to evaluate it is right for you.