Many older adults with diabetes are controlling their blood sugar levels too tightly, exposing them to potential harm, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Internal Medicine.
Generally speaking, tight blood sugar control is often a key goal of diabetes treatment. Patients with diabetes either don’t produce insulin—a hormone needed to convert sugar into energy—or can’t process it, which can lead to dangerous spikes in blood sugar. Keeping blood sugar levels as close to normal as possible can help prevent complications and help patients with diabetes live a long and healthy life. However, tight blood sugar control is not right for everyone, especially for older adults with other health conditions. In fact, the American Diabetes Association and American Geriatrics Society endorse a higher, less stringent blood sugar target for older patients because it could do more harm than good.
For this reason, researchers used national data to see how many older patients with diabetes were over-treated in the United States between 2001 and 2010. A total of 1,288 diabetic adults older than 65 years old were included in the study, 61.5% of whom had tight blood sugar control based on their hemoglobin A1c level. Among those with tight blood sugar control, a little more than half relied on drugs like insulin and sulfonylureas that lower blood sugar levels. And overall, half of all older adults with diabetes had complex or poor health.