Diabetes Self-Management Articles

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Top 10 Health Tips for Women Over 65

by Helen L. Sloan, RN, CS, DNS, and Anne White Robinson, RN, DNS

If you don’t already exercise regularly and would like to begin or if you would like to increase the amount of exercise you do, pay a visit to your doctor first. It is important to get a thorough physical examination to make sure that exercising will be safe for you. Your doctor will check for complications, including cardiovascular disease, peripheral arterial disease (the hardening of the arteries in the legs and feet), retinopathy (eye disease), nephropathy (kidney disease), and neuropathy (nerve damage). Having one of these complications doesn’t mean you can’t exercise, but it does mean that certain exercises may be safer for you than others. For example, if you have proliferative retinopathy, you should avoid high-impact aerobics, heavy weight lifting, and anything that involves straining or jarring movements. If you have neuropathy with loss of sensation in your feet and legs, you should limit weight-bearing exercise and stick to activities such as swimming, bicycling, rowing, and chair exercises. Repetitive activities that place pressure on the feet, such as using a treadmill, walking long distances, jogging, and doing step exercises, may lead to foot ulcers and fractures. If you have nephropathy, it’s a good idea to avoid high-intensity or strenuous exercises.

In addition to discussing what types of exercise are appropriate for you, ask your doctor how your blood glucose level may be affected during and after exercise and how to handle any changes you experience.

Manage your medicines
The older you get, the more medicines you’re likely to take. In fact, older people spend an estimated $3 billion annually on medicines, and the average older person takes six or seven prescription and over-the-counter medicines a day. That’s a lot to keep track of. To help you keep them all straight, make a checklist that includes the names of all the medicines and the times at which you should take them. As you take each dose, check it off the list. Keeping the week’s medicines in a pill box that has a separate compartment for each day can also help you remember to take them.

Be sure to follow the directions for taking your medicines. Don’t leave the doctor’s office or the pharmacy without being sure when and how often you should take your doses and whether to take them with food or on an empty stomach. Also be sure to find out what you should do if you ever forget to take a dose. With some medicines, it’s OK to take a missed dose when you remember it — as long as you remember fairly soon after you were supposed to take it. However, if it’s nearly time for the next scheduled dose, you may be better off skipping the forgotten dose altogether. Taking two doses of insulin too close together, for example, could cause serious hypoglycemia. If you miss a dose of your medicine and aren’t sure what to do, call your doctor or pharmacist.

Many drugs can cause side effects. Some side effects, such as intestinal gas or mild nausea, might be annoying but not medically serious. (In addition, such side effects often subside over time.) Others, however, such as light-headedness or hypoglycemia, can have serious consequences, such as, in this case, falling or having a car accident. Make sure to ask about the possible side effects of the medicines you’re taking so you know what to expect and what to do if you experience severe symptoms. Never stop taking a medicine without consulting your doctor first. Stopping some medicines, such as antibiotics and corticosteroids, before you’re supposed to can be quite harmful. However, if you think you’re having an allergic reaction to your medicine (characterized by hives, itching, swelling, or difficulty breathing), contact your doctor immediately.

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