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5 ways you can prevent a fall

Why are older people prone to falling?

Falls can occur at any age, but your risk of taking a tumble increases as you get older for the following reasons:

  • Slower reflexes and some health conditions make it difficult to regain balance.
  • Lost muscle mass leads to difficulties getting up from a seated position.
  • Weakening vision causes changes to depth perception.
  • Taking blood pressure and heart medications, water pills and muscle relaxers can leave you dizzy when you first sit or stand up.

One in three people over age 65 falls each year, leading to serious injuries, disability—even death. But you can reduce or eliminate your risk of falling by taking the following steps:

Safe proof your home both inside and out.

  • Keep floors free of clutter.
  • Avoid highly polished floors and throw rugs; stick to carpeting.
  • Fasten any rugs to the floor or purchase rugs with nonskid backing.
  • Make sure bedrooms, hallways, stairs and bathrooms are well lit.
  • When you get up in the morning, sit on the side of the bed for a few minutes before standing, which allows your blood pressure to stabilize, so you won’t feel dizzy.
  • Install handrails near the bath, shower and toilet and on both sides of staircases.
  • Keep kitchen items within easy reach.
  • Wear shoes with firm, nonskid soles inside the house and outdoors.
  • Paint a contrasting color on the edge of steps so you can see stairs more easily.
  • Consider a portable phone so you don’t have to rush to answer a call.

Take care when walking outdoors.

  • Use a cane or a walker for more stability in bad weather.
  • Use a shoulder bag, fanny pack or backpack to keep your hands free.
  • Check the height of curbs before stepping down.

Be good to your body every day.

  • Get your vitamin D, which improves muscle strength and aids calcium absorption. The recommended daily dosage is 400 to 600 IU for adults over age 50.
  • Have your doctor check your feet if you’re experiencing pain or have large, thick toenails and corns.
  • Don’t smoke.
  • Work with your healthcare provider to design an exercise program to prevent falls. Ankle weights and stretch bands can help you strengthen muscles, while water aerobics and tai chi can help you improve your balance and coordination. Weight-bearing exercises such as walking can help you increase bone density.
  • Try to practice balance exercises every day, such as holding onto the back of a chair, a sink or a counter-top and standing on one leg at a time for a minute. Slowly increase the time, and when you are comfortable, try balancing with your eyes closed or without holding on.
  • For safety’s sake, don’t exercise alone.

See your eye doctor regularly.

  • Have your vision checked at least once a year. Conditions like glaucoma and cataracts can limit vision and increase your chances of falling.

Get your medicine reviewed.

  • Talk with your healthcare provider about medicine-related side effects, such as dizziness or weakness, that may cause falling.
  • Ask how aging affects the way medicine works in your body and any consequences that may cause falling.

© 2014 Dowden Health Media