Did You Know…
1 in 4 Americans above the age of 65 fall every year? As individuals get older, the risk of falling increases. The fear of falling is also common as people age, even for those who haven’t fallen. The fear alone can lead people to avoid or minimize performance of their activities of daily living like walking, socializing, etc.
There are several factors (modifiable and non-modifiable) that can increase one’s risk of falling. Being aware of and addressing these risk factors can be instrumental in preventing falls and ultimately injuries.
Some of these risk factors include: lower extremity muscle weakness, poor vision, difficulties with gait and balance, psychoactive medications, postural dizziness, home hazards, previous falls, chronic medical conditions (diabetes, Parkinson’s, dementia, stroke, etc), lack of stair handrails, poor lighting, slippery surfaces, and tripping hazards in the home.
Here are some tips to help reduce your chances of falling:
- Stay physically active- Exercise improves muscle strength and coordination while decreasing the likelihood of developing osteoporosis. Research shows strength and balance training are effective in preventing fall related injuries.
- Eyes and ears testing ( Vision and hearing testing)- Utilize corrective lenses when needed to avoid tripping over objects. Make sure hearing aids fit properly.
- Sleep- Adequate sleep decreases fatigue.
- Decrease alcohol intake- Rate of fractures in older adults increase with the use of alcohol. Alcohol can impair balance and reaction time.
- Be careful when changing positions- Standing up too quickly can cause a decrease in blood pressure, which may in turn cause a feeling of lightheadedness.
- If you use assistive devices, such as canes, walkers, etc, make sure they are fitted correctly.
Preventing Fall Related Fractures
Fractures are one of the biggest concerns of those who fall and those who are fearful of falling.
Maintaining healthy bones does not necessarily prevent falls, but it does reduce the risk of fractures if one was to fall.
Calcium and vitamin D intake has been shown to help improve bone health. Vitamin D also plays a role in improving muscle function.
150 minutes per week of moderate intensity exercise has also been shown to improve bone health.
Reducing alcohol intake and cessation of smoking can prevent the loss of bone mass, therefore decreasing risk of fractures.
Maintaining a healthy weight can also decrease the risk of bone mass loss and fracture.
What do I do if I fall?
- Try to stay calm. Relax until you have gotten over the shock of falling.
- Determine if you are injured before getting up, as getting up incorrectly or too quickly may worsen potential injury.
- If you can get up, move slowly and safely, using a firm and stable object, to allow your blood pressure to adjust preventing postural dizziness.
- If you are hurt or cannot get up, ask someone for help or call 911:
- If you are alone, try to get into a comfortable position and wait for help
- Be sure to change your resting position in a safe and pain free way as often as every 20 minutes to prevent pressure sores
- Contact your physician. Letting your doctor know about a fall may alert him/her to an underlying medical condition, issues with medication, or an issue with eyesight.
For a falls risk analysis and falls prevention program, contact us at 212-439-1596 to set up an appointment.