Factors Associated with the Prevalence of Diabetes Mellitus Among Elderly Men and Women Living in Mediterranean Islands: The MEDIS Study


  • Stefanos Tyrovolas , Vassiliki Bountziouka, Katia Voutsa , George Pounis , Stalo Papoutsou, George Metallinos, Evangelos Polychronopoulos, Demosthenes B. Panagiotakos Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, Harokopio University, Athens, Greece.
  • Akis Zeimbekis Health Center of Kalloni, General Hospital of Mitilini, Mitilini, Greece
  • Evangelia Ladoukaki, Christos Lionis Clinic of Social and Family Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Crete, Heraklion, Greece.


type 2 diabetes · hypertension · lifestyle intervention · diet · physical activity · elderly · primary care


BACKGROUND: The aim of the present work was to evaluate the relationships between socio-demographic, clinical, lifestyle and psychological characteristics and the presence of diabetes mellitus, among elderly individuals without known cardiovascular disease. METHODS: During 2005- 2007, 1190 elderly (aged 65 to 100 years) men and women (from Cyprus, Mitilini, Samothraki, Cephalonia, Crete, Lemnos, Corfu and Zakynthos) were enrolled. Sociodemographic, clinical and lifestyle factors were assessed using standard procedures. Diabetes mellitus was defined as fasting blood glucose >125 mg/dl or use of special medication. RESULTS: 21% of males and 23% of females had diabetes. Only 70% of diabetic participants were on a special diet and 76% were receiving pharmaceutical treatment. Diabetic individuals had higher prevalence of hypertension (80% vs. 64%, p < 0.001) and hypercholesterolemia (63% vs. 51%, p < 0.001) and reported lower physical activity status (p < 0.001), compared with non-diabetic participants. After adjusting for various confounders, hypertension and hypercholesterolemia were associated with a 144% (95% CI, 1.37-4.35) and 83% (95% CI, 1.13-2.94) higher likelihood of having diabetes, while moderate and vigorous exercise correlated with a 82% (95% CI, 0.09-0.81) and 67% (95% CI, 0.11-0.97) lower likelihood of diabetes. CONCLUSIONS: A considerable proportion of our elderly sample had diabetes and other metabolic disorders, almost 25% of which were untreated. Promotion of physical activities, even in the elderly, may contribute to reducing their burden of diabetes and provide them with a better quality of living.