Take steps to reduce falls

Falls can be serious, but simple changes can help prevent the worst

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Falls are serious at any age, but especially for older people who are more likely to break a bone when they fall.

If you have a disease called osteoporosis, you are more likely to break a bone if you fall. Osteoporosis is called the “silent disease” because bones become weak with no symptoms. You may not know that you have it until a strain, bump, or fall causes a bone to break.

Falls are especially dangerous for people with osteoporosis. If you break a bone, you might need a long time to recover. Learning how to prevent falls can help you avoid broken bones and the problems they can cause.

Why do people fall?Some of the reasons people fall including tripping or slipping due to loss of footing or traction, and slow reflexes, which make it hard to keep your balance or move out of the way of a hazard. Balance problems, reduced muscle strength, illness and poor vision also contribute to falls.

Drinking alcohol is also a factor, as are some medicines, which can make you feel dizzy, confused, or slow. Medicines that may increase the risk of falls include blood pressure pills, heart medicines, diuretics (water pills), muscle relaxants, and sleeping pills.

Make some changesMaking some simple changes can lower the risk of falling. Tips to help prevent falls outdoors include:

Use a cane or walker

Wear rubber-soled shoes so you don’t slip

Walk on grass when sidewalks are slick

Put salt or kitty litter on icy sidewalks.

Some ways to help prevent falls indoors are:

Keep rooms free of clutter, especially on floors

Use plastic or carpet runners

Wear low-heeled shoes

Do not walk in socks, stockings, or slippers

Be sure rugs have skid-proof backs or are tacked to the floor

Be sure stairs are well lit and have rails on both sides

Put grab bars on bathroom walls near tub, shower, and toilet

Use a nonskid bath mat in the shower or tub

Keep a flashlight next to your bed

Use a sturdy stepstool with a handrail and wide steps

Add more lights in rooms

Buy a cordless phone so that you don’t have to rush to the phone when it rings and so that you can call for help if you fall.

Improve your balanceYou can also do exercises to improve your balance. While holding the back of a chair, sink, or counter:

Stand on one leg at a time for a minute and then slowly increase the time. Try to balance with your eyes closed or without holding on.

Stand on your toes for a count of 10, and then rock back on your heels for a count of 10.

Make a big circle to the left with your hips, and then to the right. Do not move your shoulders or feet. Repeat five times.

Source: National Institute of Health: niams.nih.gov

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