Diabetes is a life-long disease that increases the risk of many dangerous health complications, including kidney failure, heart attack, stroke, amputation, blindness, etc. Luckily, there are medications and insulin shots that can help us lower blood glucose levels.
This, in turn, can cut the risk of these health complications. However, sometimes doctors treat blood glucose too aggressively, reducing it to the point of dangerously low blood glucose levels.
In fact, a lot of older type 2 diabetes patients have been treated too aggressively with potentially harmful consequences, Forbes.
Tight glycemic control hasn’t been proven beneficial for older adults who have had the disease for a long time and suffer from vascular complications.
Researchers suggest that any benefit of tight glycemic control for those with shorter life expectancy could be outweighed by the risk of too low blood glucose.
Even though the study was conducted on only 319 adults with type 2 diabetes older than 69, it showed that overtreating the disease is a real problem, at least in 20% of them.
The authors of the study stress the importance of quitting the ‘one size fits all approach, realizing the likely benefits of de-intensifying the blood sugar-reducing treatment.
They suggest including a lower HbA1c limit in the guidelines and not basing the diabetes quality indicators on population-based mean values.
Here’s how to know if someone is being overtreated for this chronic condition. If one notices them, they should consult their doctor.
This blood test measures a person’s average blood glucose levels over the past 2-3 months. Usually, diabetes patients have A1C less than 5.7, and those with prediabetes have A1C levels ranging from 5.7 to 6.4.
Even though we would think that everything higher than 6.4 is bad for our health, we’re wrong. The treatment of this condition is not about reducing blood sugar levels to dangerous levels but reducing them just enough to prevent complications.
That’s why experts recommend avoiding A1Cs of less than 7 but getting them to less than 7.5.
If a person has many other medical problems, along with this chronic condition, diabetes overtreatment could be riskier and less beneficial for them. Mayo Clinic explains that about 20 percent of people with complex health histories get intensive treatment for their disease.
Older age can sometimes mean fewer benefits from an intensive treatment of the condition. That’s because the treatment of this chronic disease helps prevent complications in the future.
So, if one has 80 years, taking a lot of medications and injections to reduce the risk of a heart attack at 90 years doesn’t quite make sense. In fact, a person is more likely to experience the side effects of those pills than prevent a heart attack.
Pills like Amaryl, Diabenase, Micronase, Diabeta, Glucotrol, and other sulfonylureas are not recommended for older patients due to the risk of side effects. So, older people who take these pills might be overtreated with diabetes.
If one has already experienced symptoms of low blood glucose, especially more serious ones which require urgent medical care, it’s maybe time to talk to their doctor about reducing the intensity of their treatment. After all, their doctor knows what’s best for them.