Watch Your Step: Falls are Dangerous

. November 1, 2016.
health

by Stephen Roberts PhD

One in every four Americans fall each year! A friend of mine had a bad fall a few days ago. She fell off her dock onto stones. Very fortunately, other than some bruising, she was not hurt badly. Many of us are not so lucky.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC):

  • Over 25% of older Americans fall each year.
  • Almost 3 million senior citizens end up in hospital emergency rooms to treat injuries such as broken bones from falls.
  • These falls result in 800,000 hospitalizations and 27,000 fatalities
  • The majority of hip fractures and traumatic brain injuries are caused by falls.
  • Falling actually causes people to limit their activities to avoid future falls.

There are factors in our lives that increase the risk of falling. These variables include having weaker legs and hips, not being able to lift feet as well as when we were younger, use of depressant type medicines, not being able to see clearly, poor fitting shoes and being deficient in Vitamin D.

The CDC has a program called STEADI that focuses on fall prevention for older people in the following areas: Exercise to Improve Balance and Strength, Review of Medications, Vision Check and Making Your Home Safer.

Exercising is very important as it improves your muscular strength and your stability. One very good exercise that is recommended is Tai Chi. Other exercises, recommended by the National Institutes of Health, to improve balance and increase strength, such as balance walk and back leg raises are found at the following site, with demonstration videos also included. https://nihseniorhealth.gov/exerciseandphysicalactivityexercisestotry/balanceexercises/01.html

Reviewing of Medications, including those purchased over the counter, is very important since some medicines can make you tired or dizzy and increase your risk of falling. Perhaps changes can be made to decrease your risk.

Have Your Vision Checked, since not seeing properly can greatly increase your risk of falling.

Make Your Home Safer – CDC’s tips for protecting yourself from falls in your home include:

  • Pick up objects you may trip on
  • Get rid of throw rugs
  • Put handrails on stairs
  • Use non-slip mats in tub and shower
  • Put grab bars in and next to the tub and near the toilet
  • Improve lighting
  • Wear shoes instead of slippers
  • Put items you use a lot within easy reach

For further tips, visit https://nihseniorhealth.gov/falls/homesafety/01.html

Finally, work to decrease the risk of falls during the upcoming winter months:

  • Use winter shoes with rubber soles for traction
  • Attach ice gripper sole covers for shoes
  • Purchase an ice gripper cane tip
  • Carry kitty litter in a Ziploc bag in your pocket to spread on slippery surfaces
  • Attach a small flashlight to key rings
  • Put in automatic lights over outside entrances

Avoiding falls is very important, so be aware and attentive as you go about your daily activities.

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