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How to Prevent Diabetes over 65

A group of three senior African America women exercising together, jogging or power walking along a sidewalk in a residential neighborhood.  They are having fun, laughing.

Diabetes is a condition that every adult over the age of 45 needs to consider. Type 2 diabetes, which affects the way your body processes sugar, doesn’t just disturb your activity level and diet. It can also cause serious health issues. A diabetes diagnosis can lead to higher rates of muscle loss, premature death, and conditions such as hypertension, coronary heart disease, and stroke.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that more than 25 percent of Americans over age 65 has diabetes. And half of all older adults have prediabetes  , a condition where your blood sugar levels are higher but not yet considered diabetes.

The good news is that you can prevent diabetes and reverse a diagnosis of prediabetes. Take these steps for diabetes prevention:

Understand your risk of diabetes

The first step in preventing diabetes is knowing whether or not you are at risk. Being at risk does not guarantee a diabetes diagnosis. But it may motivate you to take additional measures to prevent the disease. If you over the age of 45, you are at a higher risk for type 2 diabetes if you:

  • Are overweight or obese, with a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or more
  • Are not physically active
  • Belong to a racial or ethnic group that includes black, Hispanic, Latino, American Indian, Asian American, or Pacific Islander
  • Had diabetes during pregnancy, called gestational diabetes
  • Have high blood pressure
  • Have a mother, father, sister, or brother with diabetes
  • Have prediabetes
  • Were ever diagnosed with hormonal disorder called Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

Get regular diabetes screening

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force  recommends screening for abnormal blood glucose (sugar) in adults over 40 who are overweight or obese. Your doctor may also order screening if you have additional risk factors or are experiencing symptoms. Screening for diabetes involves a blood glucose test, such as:

  • A1C test, which provides your average level of blood glucose over the past three months
  • Fasting plasma glucose (FPG) test, which measures blood glucose at a single time after fasting
  • Random Plasma Glucose (RPG) test, which measures the current glucose in your blood without the need to fast

If the test reveals that you are prediabetic, rest assured you can reverse the condition by making immediate lifestyle modifications. To help you change your behavior, Medicare’s Diabetes Prevention Program  offers up to two years of free sessions that focus on exercise, nutrition, and peer support.

If your blood glucose test is negative, plan to repeat it every 1-3 years. Medicare covers up to two diabetes screenings per year if you have certain risk factors.

Know how to spot diabetes symptoms

Recognizing the symptoms of diabetes, no matter how minor, will get you diagnosed so you can manage the disease more quickly. Type 2 diabetes symptoms may include: 

  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Increased hunger
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Numbness or tingling in feet or hands
  • Sores that do not heal
  • Unexplained weight loss

Exercise for diabetes prevention

Increasing your exercise is one way to prevent diabetes and reverse prediabetes. The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity movement a week . You’ve reached moderate intensity when you can talk during exercise but cannot sing. To support this endeavor, many Medicare plans cover membership through the Healthways SilverSneakers® Fitness Program  . This membership gives you free access to exercise and wellness programs nationwide as well as at-home fitness kits.


Prevent diabetes by maintaining a healthy weight

Whether you are prediabetic or not, keeping yourself at a healthy weight is key to preventing type 2 diabetes. According to a study conducted by the National Institutes of Health, overweight, prediabetic participants reduced their risk of type 2 diabetes by up to 58 percent  when they lost 7 percent of their body weight. Before beginning any weight loss program, consult with your physician who can suggest dietary changes and help you set a healthy goal.


Have Medicare questions? Highmark can help

To learn more about Medicare coverage, schedule a personal consultation  with a Highmark insurance agent or call 866-320-8359  (TTY/TDD users may call 711).  Medicare product experts are available by phone from 8 a.m. – 8 p.m., seven days a week