With aging, bodily systems that keep us balanced and standing upright will require more awareness. You no longer may see or hear as well, which may affect your coordination. Nerves that carry information from your brain to your muscles may deteriorate, slowing down your reaction time and making it more difficult to walk around oncoming pedestrians. Normal declines in muscle strength and joint flexibility can hinder your ability to stand, walk or rise.
Do not let the fear of falling rule your life. Many falls and fall-related injuries are preventable. Through scientific studies, researcher have identified a number of modifiable risk factors that increase the likelihood of a fall. These include medication side effects, loss of limb sensation, poor eyesight, tripping hazards within the home and lack of physical activity.
Here are some strategies to reduce the risk of falling:
Home Safety Check – The most common falls occur when people trip over objects on the floor. Work with a family member or healthcare provider on a Home Safety Checklist. This will help evaluate your home for potential trip hazards and minimize your risk of injury.
Exercise – Consider a general exercise program that includes strength training, balance training and activities such as walking or water workouts. Exercise helps reduce your risk of falls by improving your strength, balance, coordination and flexibility.
Medications – Your risk of falling may increase if you take certain prescription medications. Many medications have side effects that can affect your brain function and lead to dizziness. Taking multiple medications magnifies the risk. Medications that can increase your risk of falling include psychotropics, antiarrhythmics, diuretics and sedatives. Ask your physician to review your medications and reduce your chances of falling by using the lowest effective dosage.
Check Your Vision – Reduced vision increases risk of falls. Age related vision diseases can alter your depth perception, visual acuity and susceptibility to glare. These limitations hinder your ability to move safely. It is important to have regular check-ups with your eye doctor.
Nutrition – Osteoporosis makes bones less resistant to stress and more likely to fracture. This is more common in older adults, especially woman. To help limit the effects of osteoporosis, be sure to eat or drink sufficient calcium. Calcium rich foods include leafy greens like kale, beet or collard greens; and milk products like yogurt and cheese. In addition, you should also get enough vitamin D to enhance the absorption of calcium into the bloodstream. Vitamin D is formed naturally in the body after exposure to sunlight, but most adults need a supplement.
Falls don’t have to be a part of getting older. You have the power to stay securely on your feet. A physical activity program, lifestyle change and home improvements may further reduce your risk. If you find yourself falling, you can try to reduce your risk of serious injury. If possible, fall forward on your hands or land on your buttocks. If you live alone and are afraid no one will help you if you fall, ask someone to check on you once a day or consider paying for an emergency monitoring company that can respond to your call for help anytime.
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