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 you lower the blood glucose levels.
This, in turn, can cut the risk of these dangerous 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, according to a 2017 study.
Tight glycemic control hasn’t been proven as beneficial for older adults who have 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 type 2 diabetes 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 you are being overtreated for diabetes.
Here are a few warning signs that you are overtreated for type 2 diabetes. If you notice them, consult your doctor.
This blood test measures your 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 you would think that everything higher than 6.4 is bad for your health, you’re wrong. The treatment of diabetes is not about reducing your blood sugar levels to dangerous levels but reducing them just enough to prevent diabetes complications.
That’s why experts recommend avoiding A1Cs of less than 7 but getting them to less than 7.5.
If you have many other medical problems, along with diabetes, diabetes overtreatment could be riskier and less beneficial for you. Mayo Clinic explains that about 20 percent of people with complex health histories get intensive treatment of diabetes.
Older age can sometimes mean fewer benefits from an intensive treatment of diabetes. That’s because the treatment of diabetes helps prevent diabetes complications in future.
So, if you have 80 years, taking a lot of diabetes medications and injections to reduce the risk of heart attack at 90 years doesn’t quite make sense. In fact, you’re more likely to experience the side effects from 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, if you’re an older person and take these pills, you might be overtreated for diabetes.
If you have already experienced symptoms of low blood glucose, especially more serious ones which require urgent medical care, it’s maybe time to talk to your doctor about reducing the intensity of your type 2 diabetes treatment. Still, your doctor knows what’s best for you.