In recognition of American Diabetes Month – which began on Nov. 1 − Health Net, Inc. is working to increase awareness regarding the prevalence of diabetes among Americans aged 65 and older.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one-third of all cases of diagnosed diabetes occur in people aged 65 and older, and nearly 11 million individuals in that age group have diabetes.

Diabetes Complications

“This is a particularly vulnerable group because diabetes can lead to chronic conditions – such as heart disease and kidney disease – that can be fatal,” says Patricia Buss, M.D., Medical and Health Care Services Operations officer for Health Net. Other complications of diabetes can include stroke, hypertension, blindness, nervous system disease and amputations, according to the CDC.

Additionally, according to a study published in 2012 in Diabetes & Metabolism Journal, the elderly face additional diabetes-related challenges, including depression, muscle weakness, falls and fractures, and physical frailty.

Another study, published in 2012 in Therapeutic Advances in Endocrinology and Metabolism, said type 2 diabetes in older people is associated with higher risk of both vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Because of the prevalence of diabetes in older individuals, Buss said they should carefully review their medical coverage. “Health Net, for example, offers a Medicare Advantage special needs plan called Jade that’s designed to help seniors manage their diabetes and decrease the risk of developing conditions like heart disease.”

Buss said a study published in 2012 in Health Affairs found that diabetics enrolled in Medicare Advantage special needs plans experienced reduced rates of hospitalization and hospital readmissions as compared to individuals enrolled in original fee-for-service Medicare plans.

Free Diabetes Education and Exercise Events

In support of American Diabetes Month, Health Net’s Community Solutions Centers, which provide free health care services and health and wellness resources to all community members and their families all year long, will hold free educational sessions – open to the public – focusing on diabetes prevention and management. Contact the Community Solutions Center nearest you for more information:

East Los Angeles – Health Net Community Solutions Center5047 East Whittier Blvd.East Los Angeles, CA 90022(877) 698-7662

Fresno County – Health Net and CalViva Community Solutions Center1315 Van Ness Ave., Suite 103Fresno, CA 93721(866) 863-2465

Kern County – Health Net Community Solutions Center6013 Niles StreetBakersfield, CA 93306(661) 321-3902

San Joaquin County – Health Net Community Solutions Center678 North Wilson Way, Suite 16Stockton, CA 95206(209) 943-4800

Stanislaus County – Health Net Community Solutions Center1940 Crows Landing Rd., Suite 10Modesto, CA 95358(800) 468-2110

Tulare County – Health Net Community Solutions Center2121 N. Dinuba Blvd.Visalia, CA 93291(559) 739-3660

Additionally, the Health Net Community Solutions Center in East Los Angeles designates every Wednesday “Senior Wednesdays” and features a “Sit-Fit” fitness class and other activities geared for older adults.

Prevention and Early Detection Key

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), type 2 diabetes is the most common form of the disease. The National Diabetes Education Program notes that the risk of type 2 diabetes increases for those who have one or more of the following characteristics:
  • Getting little or no exercise;
  • Being overweight by 20 pounds or more;
  • Having a family member with type 2 diabetes;
  • Being older than 45;
  • Giving birth to a baby weighing more than nine pounds;
  • Having gestational diabetes during a pregnancy; or
  • Being African American, Hispanic American, Native American, Asian American, or of Pacific-Islander descent.

Early detection and treatment of diabetes can decrease the risk of developing complications. The ADA advises that a physician should be consulted if any of the following symptoms of diabetes are noticed, and cautions that some people with type 2 diabetes have symptoms so mild that they go unnoticed:
  • Urinating often;
  • Feeling very thirsty;
  • Feeling very hungry – even though you are eating;
  • Extreme fatigue;
  • Blurry vision;
  • Cuts/bruises that are slow to heal; or
  • Tingling, pain or numbness in the hands/feet.

“Among the most effective steps to prevent diabetes are losing weight and increasing physical activity,” said Buss.

ADA recommendations for weight management and exercise include:

  • Eating a healthy diet Choose foods high in vitamins, minerals and fibers, as well as those that are low in fat, salt and sugar. A balanced daily diet should include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat or nonfat dairy products, lean meats, poultry and fish.
  • Exercising regularly Engage in physical activity for 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Suggested activities include walking, dancing, swimming, gardening, aerobics and cycling.

“These aren’t difficult steps to take,” Buss said, “and they can help make a tremendous difference in your health.”

Medical Advice Disclaimer

The information provided is not intended as medical advice or as a substitute for professional medical care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other health provider for any questions you may have regarding your medical condition and follow your health care provider’s instructions.

Federal Contracting Disclaimer

Health Net has a contract with Medicare to offer HMO special needs plans. Enrollment in a Health Net Medicare Advantage plan depends on contract renewals.

About Health Net

Health Net, Inc. (NYSE: HNT) is a publicly traded managed care organization that delivers managed health care services through health plans and government-sponsored managed care plans. Its mission is to help people be healthy, secure and comfortable. Health Net provides and administers health benefits to approximately 5.3 million individuals across the country through group, individual, Medicare (including the Medicare prescription drug benefit commonly referred to as “Part D”), Medicaid, U.S. Department of Defense, including TRICARE, and Veterans Affairs programs. Through its subsidiaries, Health Net also offers behavioral health, substance abuse and employee assistance programs, managed health care products related to prescription drugs, managed health care product coordination for multi-region employers, and administrative services for medical groups and self-funded benefits programs.

For more information on Health Net, Inc., please visit Health Net’s website at

Copyright Business Wire 2010