Stay safe, sound, and healthy by taking some simple steps for preventing falls. Here are eight basic strategies you can start today.
If you are in or entering your senior years, you probably have several health concerns on your mind. First and foremost should be preventing falls.
Falls are a major problem among the elderly. Every year, almost 30 percent of people over age 65 will take a fall with potential severe consequences, including broken bones. That’s why fall prevention in the elderly is so important.
Fortunately, preventing back pain, hip fractures, and other complications that come from falling are a basic process that you can start today. Implementing just a few simple tips for fall prevention can have a hugely positive effect on every aspect of your life:
1. Stay active. One of the best things you can do for fall prevention is to get your body in better shape with regular exercise. Rick Smith, MD, the medical director of the Los Angeles Jewish Home retirement community, has several strategies to help you reach this goal. “The easiest and simplest exercise routine is regular walking,” says Dr. Smith. “Exercise regimens that include resistance training can be helpful. Routines that improve balance and gait variability can improve fall rates.”
2. Eat a healthy diet. What and how much you eat are often-overlooked factors for fall prevention in the elderly. If you are overweight, you are putting an additional burden on your joints, bones, and heart, which can increase your chances of falling. Eat at regular intervals, rather than skipping meals or overeating, and your blood-sugar levels will stay even. This, in turn, will help you to stay energetic, alert, and less likely to fall.
3. Ask about vitamin D. Smith says that a vitamin D deficiency can lead to falls for some elderly people, so getting those levels of D up is a key to fall prevention. Ask your doctor to check your vitamin D levels and prescribe a supplement, if needed.
4. Have your vision checked. Even if you think your eyeglass prescription is up to date, vision can change fast as you grow older. So getting it checked more regularly is a key to fall prevention in the elderly. “Get your vision checked annually, and update your prescription accordingly,” says Glenda Renee Westmoreland, MD, a geriatrician at Wishard Health Services and an associate professor of clinical medicine at Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis.
5. Avoid alcohol. Everybody needs to be careful about consuming too many alcoholic beverages, but this is especially true as we grow older, for fall prevention. As we age, our bodies do not metabolize alcohol as efficiently as when we are young.
6. Use assistive devices. In some cases, rubber-soled shoes with good treads might be enough to prevent slips and falls. In other cases, a brace, a cane, or a walker may be needed for preventing falls. Whatever approach your doctor recommends, the key to fall prevention in the elderly is to follow his advice and make sure to use any devices as needed.
7. Double-check your medications. Sometimes, prescribed medications can directly cause dizziness or drowsiness, which can lead to falls. If you experience these side effects, Dr. Westmoreland says it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about what other options might be available to you. Also, some diabetes and blood pressure medications can cause dizziness if you take your medications at the wrong time of day. Make sure to stay on a regular schedule with these medications for the best results.
8. Be more confident. Finally, just having confidence in yourself and your abilities can often play a role in fall prevention in the elderly. “In some cases, preventing falls is as simple as building confidence in your own balance skills,” says Smith. “People who are afraid of falling are significantly more likely to do so, regardless of their actual risk.”
Fall prevention in the elderly is essential to preventing potentially debilitating injuries. Making these simple lifestyle changes may make a big difference in your longevity and quality of life.