Published: 2021-03-25 15:52 | Updated: 2021-03-25 16:19

New thesis explores how older adults can combat diabetes by adopting a healthy and socially active lifestyle

An elderly couple takes a walk.

Hi there Ying Shang, PhD student at the Aging Research Center (ARC). You will be defending your thesis entitled “How can older adults combat diabetes to achieve a longer and healthier life?” on 16 April 2021. Could you tell us a little more about it?

Portrait of Ying Shang, PhD student at ARC.
Ying Shang, doctoral student at ARC/NVS. Photo: Maria Yohuang

"My thesis focuses on the impact of prediabetes and diabetes on health and survival among older adults, as well as modifiable factors that could prolong disability-free survival among older adults with diabetes."

What are the most important results?

"We found that, aside from the traditional complications, such as stroke and cardiovascular diseases, diabetes is associated with a higher risk of dementia secondary to stroke, and can accelerate physical function decline and disability progression over time. This decline in physical function might start already during prediabetes. Yet, one out of five older adults with prediabetes could revert back to normoglycemia with lifestyle modifications such as weight management."

"We also found that diabetes is related to the risk of disability or death among older adults, but a healthy and socially active lifestyle may attenuate this risk and prolong disability-free survival."

How can this contribute to the improvement of people’s health?

"This knowledge underscores the need for regular check-ups for cardiovascular health and monitoring of functionality for older adults with prediabetes. Diabetes could have an impact on cognitive and physical function in the aftermath of the occurrence of complications. Maintaining appropriate glucose control is therefore essential for people with diabetes as they reach old age."

"It also highlights the important role of behavioural and social components in the process of successful aging related to hyperglycemia, which might be useful for targeted interventions that promote the adoption of healthy choices in order to reduce the diabetes burden among older adults."

What are your future plans? 

"I definitely plan to continue conducting research in the future."

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