Whether you’ve just begun your diabetes management journey or have been living with diabetes for years, managing type 1 diabetes later in life can be challenging. Even if your treatment plan successfully kept your blood sugar in check when you were younger, you may find the things that used to work for you just aren’t as effective anymore. By creating a healthy, balanced routine and finding tools that work for this new stage of life, you can simplify diabetes management and set yourself up for long-term success.
Challenges of Managing Type 1 Diabetes Later in Life
Age changes us. While some age-related changes open the door to new opportunities, others make managing type 1 diabetes more difficult:
- Increased risk of diabetes-related complications: Older adults with diabetes are at higher risk of developing diabetes-related complications, such as hypoglycemia, kidney failure, and heart disease. Therefore, adhering to your diabetes management plan is of the utmost importance as you age.
- Hormonal changes: As you age, it’s natural for your hormone levels to change. During the menopause transition, estrogen and progesterone levels fluctuate and eventually drop in women. In men, testosterone levels fall, sometimes to suboptimal levels. These changes make it difficult to maintain a healthy weight and body composition. They also have a significant impact on your emotional well-being, potentially interfering with your ability to stick to your treatment plan.
- Retirement: Many people living with diabetes create their eating, exercise, and blood glucose monitoring routine in accordance with their work schedule. When this routine disappears, it can be difficult to stay on track.
- New health conditions: Midlife is prime time for the emergence of many chronic health conditions. In fact, over a third of adults have multiple health problems by the time they’re 48. For people with type 1 diabetes, new health diagnoses can complicate diabetes management. Those living with multiple health conditions will need to work closely with their healthcare teams to develop personalized treatment plans and ensure there are no medication interactions.
- Mobility and dexterity issues: Mobility and dexterity issues can make everyday tasks more difficult, including monitoring your blood sugar with a traditional blood glucose meter (BGM). Because these BGMs require separate test strips and lancets to be manually loaded into the device, arthritis, poor joint mobility, carpal tunnel syndrome, and tremors can all interfere with your ability to use them correctly and comfortably. Mobility issues may also make it difficult to stay active and maintain a healthy weight.
Managing type 1 diabetes later in life often means creating new habits, implementing lifestyle changes, and finding new strategies that make sense for you. Luckily, diabetes management tools have come a long way over the years.
Set Yourself Up for Long-term Success
As you age, you may experience a variety of physical, emotional, and logistical barriers to sticking to your diabetes management plan. But regardless of what later life brings for you, there are plenty of ways to stay on track.
Create a Healthy Routine
Many factors play a part in the success of your diabetes management plan, including diet, exercise, sleep, stress, alcohol consumption, and cigarette smoking. To set yourself up for success, work closely with your healthcare provider to create a routine that works for your lifestyle. Generally speaking, here’s what you’ll want to do:
- Create a type 1 diabetes diet plan
- Incorporate regular exercise into your daily routine
- Maintain a regular sleep schedule and get sufficient sleep
- Find ways to manage your stress
- Limit or avoid alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking
If you find that age-related changes are interfering with your ability to stick to your plan, ask your healthcare team for guidance and look for alternatives that suit your new needs. For instance, if you can no longer run because of arthritis in your knee, swimming might be a great option. If your slowing metabolism means you can’t eat the way you used to, you may want to increase your protein intake so you feel full longer and aren’t tempted by empty-calorie snacks.
Build a Strong Support System
Social support can play a pivotal role in your health and contribute to the successful management of diabetes. If you’re struggling with physical or emotional issues in midlife, getting the right kind of support can be critical. Confide in those you trust, such as friends and family. If you aren’t comfortable sharing with friends and family or need additional support, consider talking with a counselor or therapist. For physical health issues, your support system may need to expand to include new types of healthcare specialists.
Take Advantage of New Technology
Regularly checking your blood sugar is an essential part of diabetes management. Frequent self-monitoring of glucose levels is strongly associated with better glycemic control and lower A1C levels—but it’s often easier said than done. For those who can't bear the thought of regularly pricking their fingers, continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) are often the way to go. However, if wearing a device is uncomfortable or you’re concerned about its appearance or how it would fit into your lifestyle, you may prefer an automatic blood glucose monitor (ABGM), which allows for automatic lancing and blood collection with the press of a button.
You may also consider using a blood glucose monitoring app to log, store, and analyze blood glucose data on your smartphone, tablet, or computer. A high-quality monitoring app benefits you and your healthcare provider alike by making data sharing easy, providing tools that help you stick to your monitoring schedule, and integrating with popular health and wellness apps and devices. While some apps require you to enter blood glucose data manually, BGMs and ABGMs with Bluetooth can wirelessly upload data to their corresponding apps.
Freedom at Your Fingertip: Simple One-Step™ Testing
A blood sugar monitor should make managing type 1 diabetes later in life easier, not more complicated. An ABGM like the POGO Automatic® Monitor is designed to do just that.
POGO Automatic removes barriers to routine monitoring by offering a simple, fast, and accurate way to check your blood sugar in a single step. You simply load a 10-test cartridge into the monitor—there’s nothing else to carry with you. To check your blood sugar, you just turn the monitor on and place your finger on the test port. The POGO Automatic Monitoring System will automatically lance, collect blood, and give you accurate results quickly.
POGO Automatic features Bluetooth connectivity and comes with the free Patterns® for POGO Automatic app. Your results are uploaded via Bluetooth, so you can easily see trends and share data with your healthcare team through the Patterns sharing circle feature. Patterns also imports data from many popular wellness apps, giving you more insight into the relationships between your blood sugar and a range of health and lifestyle factors.
Managing type 1 diabetes later in life may mean reevaluating things you once took for granted. But it’s also an opportunity to find new ways of supporting your health. With the right strategies and tools, you can lay the foundation for long-term wellness as you age.
Jaclyn Owens is a product director specializing in diabetes management tools. She is committed to using technology to empower people with diabetes and help them take control of their health.
All content on this website is for educational purposes only and does not replace the guidance of your healthcare practitioner. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new healthcare regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.