As your loved ones age, it becomes more vital to maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Keeping their blood readings stable will help them live a longer and healthier life.
However, “normal blood sugar levels” will differ among seniors, and additional risk factors like diabetes can change their needs.
This guide will go over senior citizens’ blood and health needs and how they can live a healthy lifestyle alongside their conditions.
What Is the Normal Blood Sugar Level for the Elderly?
Normal blood sugar levels for older adults should be around 70-130 mg/dL. Note that these are levels for fasting blood sugar.
The American Diabetes Association recommends that your elderly loved ones’ blood glucose levels remain within this metric even after eating.
It may be difficult to fit within this metric due to comorbidities that may crop up because of age or lifestyle choices.
What Is the Target Blood Glucose Level for the Elderly With Diabetes?
No other age group is at risk of developing type 2 diabetes like the elderly, so if it does occur, you and your loved one need to be equipped to handle it.
Your blood sugar should stay under 180 mg/dL a few hours after a meal. However, this idea assumes that your aging loved one is completely healthy or has few comorbidities.
Healthy blood sugar levels will look different if your loved one has diabetes. This is because diabetes-related complications and diabetes medications can affect their blood sugar goals.
For seniors with diabetes, a blood sugar level of 90-180 mg/dL may be more manageable, regardless of the time of day.
Cognitive impairment from dementia or advanced age will also affect your loved one’s ideal blood sugar levels.A fasting blood sugar level of 100 to 180 mg/dL and a bedtime blood sugar level of 110 to 200 mg/dL are ideal goals for very ill seniors.
Does Blood Sugar and Diabetes Management Differ Between Types?
Your loved one may be a lifelong diabetic due to Type 1 diabetes, autoimmune disease, and a permanent issue.
Type 1 diabetics cannot produce insulin, so they must regularly administer or take pills to stabilize their blood sugar levels.
Then, there are Type 2 diabetics, who make up most patients diagnosed with diabetes. Senior citizens with type 2 diabetes may also use insulin injections to manage their blood sugar levels.
Regardless of your diabetes type, it can be managed by shifting towards a more healthy lifestyle.
Lifestyle changes like healthy eating and regular physical activity can lower your risk of developing heart disease and diabetes-related complications.
What Other Health Issues Can Diabetes Lead To?
There are a few diabetes-related health problems that could crop up and put older adults’ health status in further jeopardy.
These include heart disease, kidney disease, nerve damage, and cancer.
This won’t be an issue for senior citizens, but pregnant women may experience gestational diabetes.
Diabetes-related illnesses can be avoided by losing weight and maintaining a proper diet. Maintaining normal blood sugar levels can help reduce your chances of developing these other health issues.
What About Elderly Adults With Prediabetes?
Older adults may also develop prediabetes as a result of their lifestyle choices. This condition is similar to Type 2 diabetes, with many of the same symptoms.
A reading of 100-125 mg/dL may be an early sign of prediabetes.
Be wary if your loved one has high blood pressure (also known as hypertension), lives a sedentary lifestyle, or if your family history points towards developing diabetes.
Other risk factors that could lead to prediabetes are excess body fat and high cholesterol levels.
These combined factors could lead to insulin resistance, another precursor to diabetes. In a healthy patient, insulin stirs the body’s cells to absorb blood sugar.
However, senior citizens with insulin resistance disregard this process. Their bodies cannot utilize their blood sugar properly, causing issues.
In response, their pancreas creates more insulin which causes their blood sugar levels to rise, putting them at greater risk of developing diabetes and other health issues.
How to Help Diabetic Seniors Manage Their Blood Sugar
To help your senior loved one tackle their high blood sugar levels properly, you’ll need to ask multiple health care professionals for their input.
Your health care team should consist of:
- A diabetes educator
- A podiatrist
- An endocrinologist
- An opthalmologist
- A primary care provider
The aid of this team is essential because imbalanced blood glucose levels can affect multiple facets of your loved one’s life.
What Level of Blood Sugar Is Dangerous?
Your aging loved one should keep his or her blood sugar within a specific bound. Generally, a senior adult’s blood sugar should not drop below 70 mg/dL or rise higher than 180 mg/dL.
Anything outside of this range is either low blood sugar or overly high blood sugar. Overly low blood sugar is called hypoglycemia, while having high blood sugar levels is called hyperglycemia.
Both conditions can lead to more severe health issues further down the line, especially for diabetic seniors or seniors with comorbidities.
We’ll go into both of these conditions, beginning with low blood sugar.
Hypoglycemia (Low Blood Sugar)
Low blood sugar is classified as a reading of less than 70 mg/dL and is characterized by the following symptoms:
- Hardened blood vessels
- Excessive sweating
- Paleness, tingling, and clamminess
- Vomiting and nausea
- Consistent fatigue
- Loss of Coordination
This condition can manifest as nightmares and slurred speech if not treated quickly.
Hyperglycemia (High Blood Sugar)
This condition arises because the body does not have enough insulin to perform its regular functions.
It’s classified as a blood sugar reading greater than 180 mg/dL and can be identified by the following symptoms:
- Lethargy and consistent fatigue
- Blurred vision
- Excessive thirst
- Overly-frequent urination
- Rapid and unexplained weight loss
- Concentration difficulties
- A dry mouth
If hyperglycemia is not treated quickly, your loved one may develop heart disease and further vision problems. Senior women may also develop UTIs due to their blood sugar.
What Causes Hypoglycemia and Hyperglycemia in Seniors?
There are various causes of blood glucose problems in seniors, but the primary causes are diabetes and lifestyle.
Hypoglycemia mainly affects diabetic seniors but can also affect otherwise healthy older adults.
Diabetic seniors may go through this issue because their bodies are producing excessive amounts of insulin or overexerting themselves physically.
Outside of diabetes, hypoglycemia can be caused by excessive drinking on an empty stomach or kidney diseases that affect your body’s ability to process glucose medications.
Hyperglycemia is also more common in diabetic seniors, but other causes include being overweight, having hypertension or high cholesterol levels, or living a sedentary lifestyle.
Excessive emotional stress and illnesses can also cause hyperglycemia, so ensure your elderly family members are in a healthy environment with minimal stressors.
Elderly Blood Sugar Levels Chart
If your loved one is of sufficiently advanced age, they’ll be at a higher risk of glucose level-related issues
Here’s what their blood sugar levels should look like at different points of the day. Note that this is divided into nondiabetic and diabetic seniors.
Nondiabetic Elderly Blood Sugar Levels:
- 70-100 mg/dL upon waking
- 70-110 mg/dL in between meals
- Less than 120 mg/dL before bedtime
Diabetic Elderly Blood Sugar Levels:
- Above 126 mg/dL upon waking
- Less than 200mg/dL in between meals
- Less than 150 mg/dL before bedtime
Note that your loved one’s glucose should ideally be lower upon waking because they haven’t eaten anything yet.
How to Maintain Healthy Blood Sugar Levels
You and your elderly loved ones have a few options to maintain and regulate blood sugar levels.
A comprehensive diabetes management plan should have provisions for your loved one’s diet, weight, physical exercise routine, and checkup schedules.
1. Maintain a Healthy Diet and Eating Schedule
Eating healthy foods is the first thing your loved ones can do to stabilize their blood sugar levels. Consult a dietitian to determine which foods are safe for your aging family member.
However, you should generally cut out fats and meat. Replace this unhealthy food with whole grains for fiber and fresh produce. Fewer meats, more vegetables!
Note that the sugar in your blood rises after meals, so your eating habits can also affect your blood sugar levels. Timing your loved one’s meals is just as important as what they eat.
Reduce their portion size but ensure that they eat more frequently. This is to keep their blood sugar stable throughout the day.
2. Keep Them Moving and at a Stable Weight
Hyperglycemic seniors can lose weight to reduce their risk of further complications. Excess belly fat can lead to hyperglycemia and hypertension, so losing it will help immensely.
Senior citizens who live in retirement homes are at risk of living more sedentary lifestyles. A lack of activity can cause them to gain weight and put their health at risk.
For practicality, this weight loss option cannot be “sped up” with weight reduction pills. Health maintenance is a long-term process.
Help your loved ones maintain a healthy weight by encouraging them to exercise regularly. This doesn’t mean bodybuilding or high-intensity interval training; simply walking around will do.
Combining a nutritious diet and regular exercise is a surefire way to stay fit regardless of age, and it will do wonders for your loved one’s health.
3. Have Regular Checkups
Your loved one must regularly check in with their doctor and other health care professionals. The A1C test, for example, can be taken once every 3 months.
This is essential to see whether their current treatment plan is working to reduce their blood sugar.
If the current diabetes management plan isn’t working, their doctor may prescribe additional or different medicines.
How to Check a Senior’s Blood Sugar Level
A senior citizen’s blood sugar (also called glucose) must be checked regularly for your loved one’s safety. If your family member doesn’t have diabetes, then they can opt to use a single-use test.
However, long-term care may necessitate the use of a continuous glucose monitor. Here’s how they work:
This type of monitor will require a quick blood test. Your elderly family member needs to wash their hands, then massage the finger they’ll use for the test.
They’ll insert a test strip into the monitor, place their finger inside a lancet and prick it.
After a slight squeeze to get the blood out, they’ll need to place a drop of blood on the test strip gently. Within a few seconds, you should have your blood sugar reading.
Continuous Glucose Monitor
This long-term device will be attached to your elderly family member via a sensor inserted into the skin, commonly under their belly or arm.
A continuous glucose monitor will give constant readings, testing once every few minutes. Some types may sound an alarm if your blood sugar crashes or rises.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Learn more about blood sugar levels here!
What Is Normal Fasting Blood Sugar for Seniors?
Since blood sugar levels rise with age, normal blood glucose levels are different for seniors compared to younger adults or adolescents.
However, a senior’s blood sugar levels should be within 70 to 100mg/dL upon waking or after fasting. This reading changes for diabetic seniors.
Seniors with diabetes should have a fasting blood sugar level of 90 to 150 mg/dL. High blood sugar levels are common in people with diabetes, regardless of whether they live a healthy life.
What Should Your A1C Be if You Are Over 65?
The A1C tests how much glucose is in your blood. The Centers for Disease Control CDC use this test to check if seniors may develop diabetes due to their blood sugar.
Healthy seniors above 65 should have an A1c reading between 7.0-7.5%. Seniors with a few comorbidities should have an A1C result of 7.5-8.0%.
Remember that a higher A1C result may not be cause for alarm if you’ve already been diagnosed with diabetes. An A1C result of 7.5% or higher is common for diabetic seniors.
What Is the Normal Range for Blood Glucose Level in Adults Over 60 Years?
Blood glucose, also called blood sugar, should be within these bounds in seniors over 60 years old: 90-180 mg/dL for fasting blood glucose and 90-200 mg/dL for bedtime blood glucose.
Though this range is quite wide, note that the specific readings will differ depending on the health of your aging loved one.
The blood sugar of an older adult eating healthy should remain within 90-150 mg/dL.
With a few health conditions considered, this range becomes 90-180 mg/dL. Finally, a senior with multiple comorbidities should have blood glucose levels within 100-200 mg/dL.
What Are Normal Blood Sugar Levels by Age?
Ideal blood sugar levels will rise with age since the pancreas begins to slow down its insulin production as we age.
Fasting blood sugar should be less than 100 mg/dL for healthy individuals, whether children or adults.
These ideal levels change for diabetics:
- Young children under 6 years old with prediabetes or diabetes should have blood sugar levels between 80-200 mg/dL depending on the time of day.
- From 6-12, their blood glucose levels lower slightly from 80-180 mg/dL.
- Diabetic adolescents should have blood glucose levels from 70-150 mg/dL.
This lowers in diabetic adults who are 20 years and older. They should have blood glucose readings of 70-140 mg/dL.
Blood sugar or blood glucose must be balanced in older adults. However, maintaining healthy blood sugar levels becomes slightly more difficult as we age.
When the body consumes too much sugar or not enough sugar, it can cause severe consequences, so help your elderly loved ones keep their health!
REMEMBER: If you can’t help your loved one keep their glucose levels in check, you can hire a healthcare provider to assist your elderly loved one temporarily.