Age isn’t a factor when it comes to determining a safe blood sugar level. However, the risk of developing type 2 diabetes does increase with age. Diabetes is a condition that occurs when blood sugar levels rise because the body can’t use a type of sugar called glucose normally. If you’re overweight and over age 45, the American Diabetes Association recommends being tested for diabetes during your next routine medical exam. If your weight is normal and you're over 45, ask your doctor if testing is appropriate.
Glucose is the body’s main source of energy, and glucose levels in the blood are regulated by the hormone insulin, which is made in the pancreas. Type 1 diabetes occurs if the pancreas doesn’t make any or enough insulin. In the far more common type 2 diabetes, the body doesn’t respond normally to insulin secretions. Both children and adults can suffer from diabetes. Symptoms include extreme thirst, increased urination and unexplained weight loss.
To test if you have high blood sugar or might be at risk of developing diabetes, you can take a fasting glucose test, or FGT, or an oral glucose tolerance test, or OGTT. You need to fast overnight before taking either test. With the FGT test, blood glucose is measured first thing in the morning before eating. With the OGTT test, blood glucose is measured after fasting and two hours after drinking a glucose-rich drink. Your fasting blood glucose level is considered normal if it’s below 100 milligrams per deciliter. You’re considered borderline diabetic if your blood sugar is between 100 and 125 mg/dL. If you measure 126 mg/dL or more on two different days, you have diabetes.
Without testing, you might not even be aware that your blood sugar is higher than normal, but treatment is important. Diabetes carries a variety of health risks, including damage to the eyes, kidneys, blood vessels, heart and nerves, as well as cognitive decline and dementia. In addition to age, other risk factors for diabetes include being overweight, not getting enough exercise, high blood pressure and a family history of diabetes. Some minority groups in the U.S. also are at higher risk of developing the condition.
If your blood sugar is high enough for you to be considered diabetic, several treatment options can be chosen. You might be advised to make some changes to your diet and get more exercise. You’ll need to closely monitor your blood sugar level on a regular basis, from a few times a week to several times daily. A doctor might prescribe medications or insulin injections to keep levels in check. In some cases, bariatric surgery or pancreas transplants are recommended.