Public Release: 

Treating diabetes in older adults requires simpler medication regimens, looser glycemic targets

Endocrine Society's Clinical Practice Guideline offers diagnosis and treatment recommendations

The Endocrine Society

NEW ORLEANS--Simplifying medication regimens and tailoring glycemic targets in older adults with diabetes improves adherence and avoids treatment-related complications, according to a Clinical Practice Guideline issued today by the Endocrine Society. The Society debuted the guideline during a press conference on the opening day of ENDO 2019, its annual meeting in New Orleans, La.

The guideline, titled "Treatment of Diabetes in Older Adults: An Endocrine Society Clinical Practice Guideline," was published online and will appear in the May 2019 print issue of The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM), a publication of the Endocrine Society. The guideline focuses on treatment strategies that take into consideration the overall health and quality of life of older adults with diabetes, defined as age 65 or older.

Aging plays a major role in the development of diabetes, which currently affects an estimated 33 percent of older adults in the U.S. Older adults with diabetes often have one or more co-existing conditions such as cognitive impairment, cardiovascular disease, impaired vision, and rheumatoid arthritis, which affect diabetes self-management.

"The guideline encourages clinicians to consider available evidence and a patient's overall health, likelihood to benefit from interventions and personal values when considering treatment goals such as glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol," said Derek LeRoith, M.D., Ph.D., of Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, N.Y. LeRoith chaired the writing committee that developed the guideline. "Our framework prioritizes blood glucose targets over the hemoglobin A1c test when managing diabetes in older adults."

Recommendations from the guideline include:

  • Simplifying medication regimen and tailoring glycemic targets in older adults with diabetes and cognitive impairment (e.g. dementia) to improve compliance and prevent treatment-related complications
  • Designing outpatient diabetes regimens specifically to minimize hypoglycemia
  • Targeting blood pressure levels of 140/90 mmHg to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease outcomes, stroke, and progressive chronic kidney disease in older adults with diabetes aged 65 to 85 years
  • Using an annual lipid profile to reduce the amount of "bad cholesterol" in the blood
  • Administering annual comprehensive eye exams to detect retinal disease
  • Establishing clear blood sugar targets for older adults with diabetes in hospitals or nursing homes at 100-140 mg/dL (5.55-7.77 mmol/L) fasting and 140-180 mg/dL (7.77-10 mmol/L) after meals while avoiding hypoglycemia

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Other members of the Endocrine Society writing committee that developed this guideline include: Geert Jan Biessels of the University Medical Center Utrecht in Utrecht, Netherlands; Susan S. Braithwaite of Presence Saint Francis Hospital in Evanston, Ill. and Presence Saint Joseph Hospital in Chicago, Ill.; Felipe F. Casanueva of Complejo Hospitalario Universitario de Santiago (CHUS), CIBER de Fisiopatologia Obesidad y Nutricion (CIBERobn), Instituto Salud Carlos III in Santiago de Compostela, Spain; Boris Draznin of the University of Colorado Denver Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, Colo.; Jeffrey B. Halter of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich. and the National University of Singapore; Irl B. Hirsch of the University of Washington Medical Center-Roosevelt in Seattle, Wash.; Marie E. McDonnell of Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, Mass.; Mark E. Molitch of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, Ill.; M. Hassan Murad of the Mayo Clinic, Division of Preventive Medicine in Rochester, Minn.; and Alan J. Sinclair of King's College in London, United Kingdom.

The Society established its Clinical Practice Guideline Program to provide endocrinologists and other clinicians with evidence-based recommendations in the diagnosis, treatment, and management of endocrine-related conditions. Each guideline is developed by a writing committee of topic-related experts in the field. Writing committees rely on evidence-based reviews of the literature in the development of guideline recommendations. The Endocrine Society does not solicit or accept corporate support for its guidelines. All Clinical Practice Guidelines are supported entirely by Society funds.

This Clinical Practice Guideline was co-sponsored by The European Society of Endocrinology, The Gerontological Society of America and The Obesity Society.

Endocrinologists are at the core of solving the most pressing health problems of our time, from diabetes and obesity to infertility, bone health, and hormone-related cancers. The Endocrine Society is the world's oldest and largest organization of scientists devoted to hormone research and physicians who care for people with hormone-related conditions.

The Society has more than 18,000 members, including scientists, physicians, educators, nurses and students in 122 countries. To learn more about the Society and the field of endocrinology, visit our site at http://www.endocrine.org. Follow us on Twitter at @TheEndoSociety and @EndoMedia.

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