A simple thing can change your life—like tripping on a rug or slipping on a wet floor. If you fall, you could break a bone. For older people, a break can be the start of more serious problems, such as a trip to the hospital, injury, or even disability. More than one in three people age 65 years or older falls each year. The risk of falling—and fall-related problems—rises with age. Which could then create a whole new set of problems including, loss of mobility and strength as a result of the injury, fear of falling again, leading to avoidance of activities and possibly fear of leaving the house. Activities that help keep us active and young at heart!
Many things can cause a fall: eyesight, hearing, and reflexes might not be as sharp as they were when you were younger. Diabetes, heart disease, or thyroid problems, nerves, feet, or blood vessels, some medicines can cause dizziness or sleepy, could be related to falls. Other causes include safety hazards in the home or community environment.
Scientists have linked several personal risk factors to falling, including muscle weakness, problems with balance and gait, and blood pressure that drops too much when you get up from lying down or sitting (called postural hypotension). Foot problems that cause pain and unsafe footwear, like backless shoes or high heels, can also increase your risk of falling.
Take the Right Steps to Prevent Falls
Taking care of your overall health will help lower your chances of falling now and in the future.
Here are a few tips to help you avoid falls and broken bones:
Stay physically active. Regular exercise improves muscles and makes you stronger. It also helps keep your joints, tendons, and ligaments flexible. Mild weight-bearing activities, such as walking or climbing stairs, may slow bone loss from osteoporosis.
Have your eyes and hearing tested. Even small changes in sight and hearing may cause falls. When you get new eyeglasses or contact lenses, take time to get used to them. Always wear your glasses or contacts when you need them. If you have a hearing aid, be sure it fits well and wear it.
Find out about the side effects of any medicine you take. If a drug makes you sleepy or dizzy, tell your doctor or pharmacist.
Get enough sleep. If you are sleepy, you are more likely to fall.
Limit the amount of alcohol you drink. Even a small amount of alcohol can affect your balance and reflexes. Studies show that the rate of hip fractures in older adults increases with alcohol use.
Stand up slowly. Getting up too quickly can cause your blood pressure to drop. That can make you feel wobbly. Get your blood pressure checked when lying and standing.
Be very careful when walking on wet or icy surfaces. Try to have sand or salt spread on icy areas by your front or back door.
Wear non-skid, rubber-soled, low-heeled shoes, or lace-up shoes with non-skid soles that fully support your feet. It is important that the soles are not too thin or too thick. Don't walk on stairs or floors in socks or in shoes and slippers with smooth soles.
Always tell your doctor if you have fallen since your last checkup, even if you aren't hurt when you fall. A fall can alert your doctor to a new medical problem or problems with your medications or eyesight that can be corrected. Your doctor may suggest physical therapy, a walking aid, or other steps to help prevent future falls.
Keep Your Bones Strong to Prevent Falls
Having healthy bones won't prevent a fall, but if you fall, it might prevent breaking a hip or other bone, which may lead to a hospital stay, disability, or even death. Getting enough calcium and vitamin D can help keep your bones strong. So can physical activity. Try to get at least 150 minutes per week of physical activity.
Other ways to maintain bone health include quitting smoking and limiting alcohol use, which can decrease bone mass and increase the chance of fractures. Also, try to maintain a healthy weight. Being underweight increases the risk of bone loss and broken bones.
Osteoporosis is a disease that makes bones weak and more likely to break. For people with osteoporosis, even a minor fall may be dangerous. Talk to your doctor about osteoporosis.
Fall Proofing your home: 6 out of 10 falls happen in the home…
- Keep hallways, stairwells and pathways clear of clutter and well lit.
- Ensure handrails are on at least one side of the stairs and that they are tightly fastened. Oh yeah, then use them…
- Check all carpets are fixed to the floor and don’t slide. Put no-slip strips on tile and wooden floors. Small throw or area rugs can be a hazard.
- Keep electrical cords and other wires near walls and away from walking paths.
- Arrange furniture and other objects so they aren’t in your way when you walk.
- Keep items you use often within easy reach.
- Don’t stand on a chair or table to reach something that is too high.
- Watch out for your pets, know where they are when you are standing or walking.
Next week – we’ll talk about exercises and ideas to help keep you strong and prevent falls.