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Stay on your feet

Written by by Dr. Tere Koenig. Posted in January

Trips, tumbles, slips, or stumbles—any kind of fall can hurt your health in many ways. While falls are more likely to occur as we get older, they don’t have to be part of the aging process. There are numerous steps you can take to prevent them.

 

It’s true that one out of four older people fall each year and less than half of them tell their doctor, who really needs to know! According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 800,000 patients a year are hospitalized due to an injury from a fall. Plus, on the list of the top three things that impact a senior’s health, barring any acute illness, falls are number one, followed by urinary incontinence and lack of physical activity.

Don’t become a statistic

All of those falls are not due to aging itself, but to lack of preparation. If you understand how to manage your risk factors, you can live a full and active life and reduce the fear of falling. For example, you need to be aware of your health issues and know the potential side effects of any medication you are taking. By knowing your limits and taking the proper precautions, you’re more likely to stay on your feet.

Fall-proof your home

First, when you wake up in the morning, don’t get out of bed too quickly. Lay there for a minute and give your body time to adjust. Then sit up slowly and wait 30 seconds to a minute before standing. If you have rugs in your home, put stabilizers underneath them. Loose rugs can easily trip you. Make sure you have enough lighting everywhere, especially in hallways and on staircases. Always use the hand railings on stairways and install grab bars in your bathroom.

Be careful outdoors

When you go outside during the winter months, make sure your sidewalks and driveway are clear of snow and ice. Wear shoes or boots that have good traction. To minimize the risk of falling on snow and ice, take shorter strides, bend your knees a bit, and turn your feet slightly out as you step. It’s a good idea to take a flashlight with you when you’re walking or in the car since it can get dark so early. Carrying a cell phone is also a good safeguard.

Find the right balance

One of the most important things you can do is actively work on improving your balance. If you want to join a group class, there are a few community-based programs that may be available in your area. One is Tai Chi, which can really help better your balance. Another is a program called “A Matter of Balance.” Both of these not only make you more aware of your balance, but they also provide help in stabilizing your stance.

Taking these precautions and working to improve your balance can help prevent you from falling and suffering a serious injury. ❦

University of Toledo Medical Center