When falling becomes a serious health hazard

January 22, 2018 | by Nina Lundberg, MD
Categories: Healthy Driven Life

Falling isn’t fun at any age. But if you’re age 65 or older, falling can be a serious health hazard.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, one out of four adults age 65 and older falls each year.

Falling is dangerous because it can result in significant physical consequences, such as broken bones or a traumatic brain injury.

Most of the time, falls are the product of a combination of risk factors, such as age, imbalance, vision problems, unsuitable footwear and hazards such as uneven steps.

You can increase your chances of staying on your feet! The National Institute on Aging offers some helpful tips to avoid falls, including:

  • Stay physically active. Plan an exercise program that is right for you. 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 you to fall. 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.
  • Use an assistive device if you need help feeling steady when you walk. Appropriate use of canes and walkers can prevent falls. If your doctor tells you to use a cane or walker, make sure it is the right size for you and the wheels roll smoothly. A physical or occupational therapist can help you decide which devices might be helpful and teach you how to use them safely.
  • Be very careful when walking on wet or icy surfaces. They can be very slippery! Try to have sand or salt spread on icy areas by your front or back door.
  • Invest in non-skid footwear. 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.

Our medically-based fitness centers and professional team of trainers and staff will help you reach your fitness goals. Learn more about Edward-Elmhurst Health & Fitness.

Find a primary care physician who partners with you in your personal health goals. Search Find-A-Doctor.

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