Study Finds that Strict Glycemic Control May Not Be Effective for the Elderly

Experts have mixed opinions on glycemic control and if it's helpful to older adults. Find out why and learn which glucose monitors to consider if you want to keep track.

Person testing their blood sugar

About one third of the elderly population in the U.S. has diabetes, according to the National Institutes of Health, and three quarters of seniors have either pre-diabetes or diabetes.

With so many elderly people affected, the topic of diabetes management is of key interest to seniors and their adult children – many of whom find themselves in the “sandwich generation,” raising their own children while helping to care for their aging parents. Now a new report is shedding light on glycemic control among aging individuals who have diabetes.

According to a recent Medscape article, experts have mixed opinions on whether strict glycemic control – the levels of blood sugar or glucose in a person with diabetes – is appropriate for older adults. At a diabetes conference held this month in South Korea, two leading physicians took differing opinions, the article notes.

Dr. Medha Munshi, director of the Joslin Geriatric Diabetes Program at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, told attendees that strict glycemic control in the elderly is “meaningless,” because the benefits of it in seniors is unclear and the risks are “catastrophic and well-documented.”

But Dr. Ryo Suzuki, professor of diabetes, metabolism, endocrinology, rheumatology, and collagen diseases at Tokyo Medical University in Japan, said there is no consensus on the definition of “elderly,” that A1C levels are not a “perfect marker of glycemic control,” and that glucose-lowering drugs can have benefits even beyond blood glucose reduction. Risk factors should be evaluated individually, he argued.

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“We need to evaluate and assess these factors individually for every patient,” he said, according to Medscape. Read the full report here.

Glucose monitors for seniors

The increasing availability of continuous glucose monitoring is also changing the way doctors approach the issue, the report notes. While all patients should discuss their individual circumstances with a physician, here’s a look at some of the glucose level monitors on the market today. In 2018, these monitors were ranked the top-rated by Consumer Reports.

  1. FreeStyle Freedom Lite
  2. Bayer Contour Next
  3. True Metrix Blood Glucose Meter
  4. Accu-Check Aviva Plus
  5. FreeStyle Lite

Continuous monitors, and those that connect to smartphones, are also available. For more information on glucose monitoring, consider this guide from the American Diabetes Association.

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