The Rising Risk of Diabetes in Older Adults

The Rising Risk of Diabetes in Older Adults

The number of people in the UK living with diabetes has been on the rise for decades. It’s estimated that there are around five million people with diabetes across the country, with some 850,000 of those undiagnosed.

The risk of diabetes is spread across all demographics, but it’s a particular concern for older adults, who have an increased chance of experiencing diabetes-related health complications. As such, prevention methods, early detection, and adequate management are all essential.

In this post, we’ll take a closer look at the rising risk of diabetes in adult adults, as well as outline some handy diabetes prevention tips.

Why is Diabetes on the Rise?

There’s no single reason why diabetes cases are on the rise in the UK. Some of the most common theories include:


Maintaining a healthy diet is one of the best ways to prevent the development of diabetes. Though it may, outwardly, seem that the UK has moved to a healthier diet in recent years with the emergence of low-sugar and low-fat food products, this isn’t necessarily true. Low-fat products tend to be high in sugar, and low-sugar products tend to be high in fat. Consuming too many of these products can lead to an increased risk of diabetes.

People are also eating dishes high in sodium (think: microwave meals). While sodium-heavy diets don’t actively cause diabetes, they’re thought to lead to health conditions — such as high blood pressure — that are risk factors.

Decreased Exercise

People tend to have fewer exercise opportunities as they age. This is especially true for individuals who live in urban areas, and who may lack a safe and secure space to stretch their legs and engage in other forms of exercise. Many older individuals who live in an urban area spend an increasing amount of time at home. If they do move, they tend to drive or take public transport. Studies have indicated that sedentary lifestyles can significantly increase the risk of developing diabetes.

Changing Demographics

Finally, there are more older people living with diabetes in the UK on the basis that there are more older people. The UK is an ageing society. In 2011, there were 9.2 million people aged 65 and over. Today, there are more than 11 million people aged 65 and over — and that figure is continuing to rise.

Diabetes becomes much more likely as you age since older bodies have more difficulty managing their glucose level. However, it should be noted that Government reports have shown that rates of diabetes are rising across all demographics.

Diabetes Prevention: 4 Handy Steps

It’s important to remember that treatment options are available for people with diabetes. However, as with all things, prevention is better than treatment. Below, we’ll take a look at some of the most effective diabetes prevention steps you can incorporate into your lifestyle.

Weight Management

Overweight individuals are at a greater risk of developing diabetes. One study found that a person’s chance of developing diabetes dropped by a staggering 40% after they lost 7% of their body weight. 

Losing weight can be challenging, but it’s possible. Start with an achievable goal, and begin your journey.

Maintain a Regular Exercise Schedule

The positive effects of exercise stretch far beyond diabetes prevention, but it’s true that it can help in that area too. For one thing, it’ll make it easier to lose weight. It’s also been shown to lower an individual’s blood sugar level. 

Engaging in activities that boost your strength and all-out health, including running, resistance exercises, and regular walks can help give your fitness levels a boost.

Eat Well

The NHS diabetes programme includes the pre-diabetes diet sheet NHS experts have put together. Eating healthy, nutritious meals, and avoiding those bad-for-you dishes that have been shown to increase diabetes risk, are key to prevention.

Limiting or eliminating the number of sugary snacks and drinks you consume will help to keep your blood sugar levels within their normal range. Eating a colourful range of five portions of fruit and veg a day is also recommended.

Take Control

Finally, older individuals are encouraged to take a proactive approach to their diabetes risk. The NHS has put together a quiz that allows British citizens to find out their risk of developing type 2 diabetes (the most likely type) on this page. It’s much easier to manage diabetes if it’s caught early, rather than if it’s allowed to develop over time.

The Bottom Line on Diabetes in Older Adults

Diabetes may be on the rise in the UK, but as we’ve seen, there are plenty of prevention methods available. If you’d like to know more about diabetes, consult the NHS website.