9. Keep an eye on eye care
Older people often experience vision problems such as cataracts (cloudy or hazy spots on the lens of the eye), macular degeneration (the breakdown of the part of the retina that gives us sharp, central vision), and glaucoma (a condition in which pressure builds up in the eye and damages the optic nerve). These conditions can lead to impaired vision or vision loss, which can interfere with your quality of life and increase your risk of falls and fractures. Having diabetes can affect your eyes as well. It doubles your risk for glaucoma, and it can cause a condition called retinopathy, in which damage to the retina causes vision loss.
You can help prevent diabetes-related eye problems by keeping your blood glucose level as close to normal as possible. The next best thing to prevention is early detection; catching eye problems early makes it easier to treat them successfully and prevent vision loss. Because glaucoma and retinopathy often show no symptoms until you start to lose vision, it’s important to get screened for them regularly. The American Diabetes Association recommends having a dilated eye exam every year, even if you don’t notice any changes in your vision. If you do notice vision changes, especially sudden ones, don’t wait for your annual exam — let your health-care provider know right away. Medicare Part B covers one dilated eye exam each year for people with diabetes. If you don’t have Medicare, check to see what your plan covers.
Having a social network is important to the body, mind, and spirit. People who are socially active tend to be healthier, happier, and less likely to become depressed. Yet many women have less contact with other people as they get older, sometimes because of a disability that makes getting out of the house difficult, sometimes because friends and family members die or move away over time. If women don’t make new friends and social contacts, they may experience social isolation, which can lead to feelings of loneliness and affect their sense of well-being.
To stay socially active, make a point of getting out of the house. Make dates with your friends to go out to lunch or to the mall. Better yet, make plans to exercise regularly with a friend or group of friends. Exercising with others is usually more fun than exercising on your own, and it can help you stick with your exercise program.
Some other ways to increase your social interaction include volunteering at a school, library, museum, park or nonprofit organization; participating in a church group or choir; taking a class at a community college; and joining a book club through your public library or a nearby bookstore. Contact your local senior center to see if it serves lunch, shows movies or offers dance, exercise, craft or other kinds of classes. You can also check with your senior center to see if your town has a reminiscence group that you can take part in. Attending a diabetes support group is a good way to meet and socialize with other people who have diabetes and may be facing the same challenges as you are. Check with your senior center or local hospital to see if it offers one. If you live in a retirement community, take advantage of the social and recreational activities offered.
If transportation is a problem for you, see if your senior center offers rides to its events. You can also have family and friends come to you — invite them to your house for parties, meals or card nights. And don’t forget about using the phone, e-mail or letters to stay in touch with friends and loved ones — whether they live close by or far away.
All too often, older women with hearing problems are reluctant to socialize because they find it difficult or embarrassing to try to communicate with others. If a hearing impairment is keeping you from socializing with others, talk to your doctor. You may benefit from using hearing aids.
Health tips for women: Counting to 10
The more you do to stay healthy, the better you will feel. And now that you’re equipped with these ten tips you know just what to do. But don’t try to change everything at once. Begin with small changes to your routine — such as devoting a few minutes each day to foot care, scheduling more social outings with your friends or remembering to get your flu shot — and work up to the bigger ones, such as stopping smoking. Incorporate the advice we’ve given into your routine tip by tip until you follow all 10. The payoff could be a healthier, happier life in the years to come.