As you get older, you may experience changes to your health, physical condition, and even take new medications to help alleviate some of those symptoms. All of these factors can contribute to an increased likelihood of a fall. In fact, falls are the number one cause of injury among older adults. According to the CDC, one out four older adults will fall each year in the U.S. But here’s the good news –70% of falls are preventable. Gina Dawson, Physical Therapist at Methodist Hospital | Metropolitan shares her top five tips for fall prevention.
One: Improve your strength and balance
One of the easiest ways to avoid injury from a fall is by improving your balance and strength. Find a good exercise program or an activity you love to do. Whether it’s walking, yoga or biking – exercise can help build muscle and strengthen your legs. “Find something that you enjoy and something that will challenge your leg muscles and your back muscles,” says Gina.
Lack of exercise can lead to weakness – which means a greater chance of falling. So, get out there and get active! Not only will it help you balance and strength, but exercise is also proven to help reduce your risk of depression and anxiety, and improve your sleep!
Two: talk to your doctor about risk & prevention
If you fall, it’s important to talk to your doctor right away so that he or she can review your medication – including any over the counter medication – as well as any changes that may be occurring in your body.
“Sometimes, there might be something changing in your body that’s causing you to feel off balance,” shares Gina. “For instance, if you're a diabetic and you’re feeling dizzy, it could be a sign that your sugars are not in check. Or if you're experiencing lightheadedness, your body could be signaling to your blood pressure.”
Three: know your medications
Be aware of your medications and any side-effects that may be associated with dizziness.
“Most medications will have the information as to side effects. Medicines that say PM, for instance, indicate that there's a sleeping factor.”
Be aware of all side-effects and only take medication as directed by your doctor. Also, be sure to have your pharmacist review your medications on a regular basis as changes in your body can occur over time that affect your medication.
Four: get your eyes, feet and ears checked
It’s a good idea to get your eyes checked annually with your eye doctor, and if needed, to update your eyeglasses. Poor vision can increase your likelihood of falling. You’ll also want to have your doctor check your feet once a year and discuss proper footwear to avoid falling. They may suggest seeing a podiatrist.
Lastly, make sure you’re hearing is up to par. “Studies also show that people that have their hearing aids on actually have better balance.”
Five: make your home safe
Make your hope as safe and as hazard free as possible! Watch out for rugs, or any lose items that are easy to trip over. “The majority of faults occur in the home and in the bathroom and the kitchen area,” says Gina. “So in the bathroom, if you can install some grab bars, that's really helpful.”
In the kitchen, try to put frequently used items in easy to reach place. “This way, you’re not having to reach too high or too low for something.”
Other tips for making your home safe include:
- Use non-slip mats in the bathtub and on bathroom/shower floors
- Change out the lighting in your home with brighter bulbs and add shades to windows to help alleviate the sun’s glare
- Install handrails on the staircase
- Wear supportive, well-fitted shoes at all times
If you or a loved one experiences a fall and requires immediate medical attention, call 911.
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