According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year, one in three Americans over age 65 will fall. Accidental falls kill more than 18,000 older adults every year and are responsible for more than 450,000 hospitalizations. Taking steps to prevent falls will help you to move around safely, do what you need to do, and stay independent. These steps in include regular exercise, speaking with your doctor about your medications, eating right, and eliminating fall hazards in your home.
Staying fit and participating in regular exercise is extremely important. Activities like walking, working out with light weights, water workouts, and dancing can help improve strength, balance, and flexibility. Remember to wear sturdy non-slip shoes whenever you exercise (and even when you’re just walking around).
Tai Chi has been found to be a particularly effective exercise in the prevention of falls. It’s a non-violent, relaxing form of martial arts that emphasizes slow, gentle, and graceful body movements. The National Institute on Aging cites a study at Emory University in which older adult took part in a 15-week Tai Chi program. As a result of practicing Tai Chi the participants reduced their risk of falling by nearly 50%.
The Doctor Will See You Now
Visit your doctor to review your medications, their side effects, and any potential interactions that could increase the risk of dizziness or balance problems. The doctor may also want to evaluate your walking gait and muscle strength. See the ophthalmologist for regular checkups, too; your glasses will likely need an adjustment from time to time. You will likely experience more balance and less falls as a result.
A healthy diet can help keep you on your feet. Maintaining a healthy weight makes it easier to keep your balance and therefore remain on your feet. Being overweight is a serious risk factor for falls — particularly for anyone with balance issues.
Osteoporosis is another risk factor for falls and broken bones. Help maintain strong bones by doing weight-bearing exercises and getting enough calcium and vitamin D in your diet. Milk and milk products, shellfish, canned salmon with bones, soybeans, and dark green leafy vegetables are all good sources of calcium. You can supplement vitamin D intake by taking vitamins and getting outdoors for a bit of sun exposure each day.
Fall-Proof Your Home
Take a thorough inventory of your home to find and eliminate fall hazards. Install additional lighting in dim areas, use nonslip mats or decals in your tub, and make sure that walk paths are clear of boxes, electrical cords, and other tripping hazards. Remove or secure loose area rugs with double-sided tape, clean up any spilled liquids quickly, and add railing or grab bars to any potentially slippery areas.
Falls are very serious and can even lead to death, particularly in older adults. You can take steps now to minimize the risk of falling by exercising, seeing your doctor, eating a good diet, and making improvements to your home’s safety. Avoiding falls is an important way for older adults to remain healthy and and most of all, stay out of the emergency room.