From the Journals

Endocrine Society advises on diabetes care for older adults



Diabetes management in adults aged 65 years and older involves special considerations, because the effects of aging on metabolic regulation can exacerbate the disease and accelerate the development of common complications, according to a new guideline on diabetes care for older adults issued by the Endocrine Society.

“The prevalence of diabetes in the United States is projected to increase dramatically during the next 3 decades as the population ages, the numbers of higher-risk minority groups increase, and people with diabetes live longer because of decreasing rates of cardiovascular deaths,” wrote Derek LeRoith, MD, of Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, and his writing committee colleagues. They said their goal was to provide health care providers with guidance for the management of type 1 or type 2 diabetes in older patients, with a focus on simplifying medication regimens and management strategies to avoid “unnecessary and/or harmful adverse effects.”

The guideline, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, is based mainly on evidence from controlled trials in two systematic reviews that specifically focused on adults aged 65 years and older. The guideline addresses six areas of consideration for this patient population:

  • Role of the endocrinologist and diabetes care specialist.
  • Screening for diabetes and prediabetes, and diabetes prevention.
  • Assessment of older patients with diabetes.
  • Treatment of hyperglycemia.
  • Treating complications of diabetes.
  • Special settings and populations.

Partnerships and screening

The guideline recommends that primary care providers partner with an endocrinologist or diabetes specialist in the care of patients aged 65 and older with newly diagnosed diabetes, and that the specialist take primary responsibility for diabetes care of patients with type 1 diabetes or those who need more complex intervention to achieve treatment goals.

Screening for diabetes in adults aged 65 years and older using fasting plasma glucose and/or hemoglobin A1c should occur every 2 years, but that schedule should be adjusted based on shared decision making with the patient, the committee said. Providers are advised to assess the patient’s overall health and personal values before settling on treatment goals and strategies. The writing group also recommends periodic cognitive screening and that medication regimens be simplified as much as possible.

Tackling hyperglycemia

For treatment of hyperglycemia, the guideline recommends outpatient strategies to minimize hypoglycemia and periodic or continuous glucose monitoring. The strategies include lifestyle modifications as a first-line intervention for ambulatory patients, as well as nutritional assessment. A high-protein diet is recommended for older patients with frailty, but no restrictions on diet are advised for patients who cannot meet glycemic targets with lifestyle modification and who are at risk for malnutrition.

Metformin is the first-choice recommendation for patients with diabetes aged 65 and older who need medical management in addition to lifestyle modification, but it is not recommended for individuals with impaired kidney function or gastrointestinal intolerance, according to the guideline. Oral and injectable drugs and/or insulin are recommended if metformin and lifestyle changes are insufficient to meet glycemic targets, the writers noted.

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