How to reduce the risk of debilitating falls

As you age, falling becomes more than just a passing episode barely to be considered; instead, it becomes a serious risk to your health and independence.  A single fall can be more debilitating than even a heart attack. Overall, falls are the leading cause of injury deaths and disabilities among people 65 and older. You're more likely to die from falling in the bathroom than from being in a car accident. To avoid falls, it's important to improve your sense of balance. Here are a few things you can consider.

How to reduce the risk of debilitating falls

Evaluate your balancing ability

  • It's simple enough to do: See how long you can stand on one foot (make sure there's something stable nearby to grab if you feel yourself start to fall), then switch feet.
  • Next, try it with your eyes closed. Which side of your body balanced better?

Review your medications

  • Get out all of the medications and vitamin, mineral, herb, and other nutritional supplements you're taking and list the names, dosages, and when and how you take them. Then e-mail, fax, or mail the list to your doctor.
  • Ask if any individual medications or supplements (or combinations of them) could contribute to dizziness or balance problems.

Wear shoes that grip the ground

  • For everyday life, wear shoes that have the best possible traction.
  • Every style of shoe is available with rubber soles that are as ground grabbing as hiking shoes.  Look for them at your local shoe store

Consider hip pads

  • If your risk of falling is particularly high due to age or infirmity, wear padded cloths on your hips.
  • If you do fall, the pads, which are available at many health supply stores or for order online, reduce the risk of hip fracture by shunting the energy away from the point of impact.
  • In one study, frail women living in their homes who wore hip pads reduced their risk of hip fracture when they fell by nearly 80 percent.

Drink up

  • If you spend most of your time at home, keep a large pitcher filled with ice water or diluted juice in your fridge and be sure you drink all of it — or more — every day.
  • If you're on the road, carry a large refillable water bottle with you.
  • Dehydration, which becomes more common as we age, can contribute to low blood pressure, dizziness, and falls.
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