Research Report 2018

Dr. Iliana Lega | Scientist and Endocrinologist

Optimizing diabetes management in older adults

More than 25 per cent of people over the age of 75 have diabetes, representing over half a million adults in Canada. In older adults, diabetes is associated with a high burden of comorbid diseases, decreased functional status and higher risk of hospitalization. Dr. Iliana Lega’s research is focused on improving the health and safety of older adults with diabetes by informing strategies to optimize diabetes management, particularly in long-term care homes.

Diabetes is a complex disease, impacted by a variety of genetic, environmental, lifestyle and socioeconomic factors. As an endocrinologist, Dr. Lega cares for patients with diabetes and is passionate about improving outcomes for both her own patients and others living with the disease. The goal of diabetes management is to normalize high blood glucose levels, however studies continue to show evidence of intensive glycemic control and overtreatment in older adults with diabetes. Hypoglycemia, a potentially fatal side effect of overtreatment, is associated with negative health outcomes including increased risk of cardiovascular events, falls and neurocognitive decline. Older women with diabetes are particularly vulnerable to overtreatment.

Dr. Lega is interested in the relationship between diabetes and other complex chronic conditions such as cancer, cognitive dysfunction and dementia in the elderly. Her research will assess whether older adults, particularly women, are at higher risk of adverse outcomes related to prevalent overtreatment. By understanding the current ways in which diabetes is managed in older adults across Ontario, Dr. Lega’s research aims to identify both system and healthcare related factors that put older adults with diabetes at increased risk of hypoglycemia.