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You Can Prevent Most Falls

A simple thing can change your life — like tripping on a rug or slipping on a wet spot on the kitchen floor. If you fall, then you might be like the thousands of older men and women each year who break, or fracture, a bone. A broken bone might not sound awful. But, for older people, a break can be the start of more serious problems.

Don't let a fear of falling keep you from being active. Doing things like getting together with friends, gardening, walking, or going to the local senior center are also important for staying healthy. The good news is that there are simple ways you can prevent most falls.

1. Learn how strong your bones are.

Ask your doctor about a special test called a bone mineral density test. If this test shows your bones are weak, your doctor can tell you how to make them stronger and less likely to break.

2. Stay physically active.

Plan an exercise program that is right for you. Regular exercise makes you stronger and improves muscles. It also helps keep your joints, tendons, and ligaments flexible. Mild weight-bearing activities, such as walking or climbing stairs, may slow bone loss from osteoporosis.

3. Make your home safe.

  • Have handrails on both sides of all stairs from top to bottom, and make sure they are tightly fastened.
  • Make sure there is good lighting with light switches at the top and bottom of stairs and each end of a long hall.
  • Keep areas where you walk tidy. Don't leave things on the floor — you might trip on them.
  • Check that all carpets are fixed firmly to the floor so they won't slip. Put no-slip strips on tile and wooden floors. You can buy these strips at the hardware store.
  • Place non-skid mats, strips, or carpet on all surfaces that may get wet.
  • Mount grab bars near toilets and on both the inside and outside of your tub and shower.
  • Don't stand on a chair or table to reach something that's too high — use a "reach stick" instead. Reach sticks are special grabbing tools that you can buy at many hardware or medical-supply stores. If you use a step stool, make sure it is stable and has a handrail on top. Try to have someone stand next to you.
  • Don't let your home get too cold or too hot — being very cold or very hot can make you dizzy. In the summer, if your home is not air-conditioned, keep cool with an electric fan, drink lots of liquids, and limit physical activity. In the winter, don't let the room temperature drop below 65 F at night.
  • Put night lights and light switches close to your bed. Keep your telephone near your bed, too.

4. Find out about the side effects of any medicine you take. If a drug makes you sleepy or dizzy, tell your doctor or pharmacist.

5. Have your eyes and hearing tested often.

Even small changes in sight and hearing can put you at risk for falling. When you get new eyeglasses, take time to get used to them. Always wear your glasses when you need them. If you have a hearing aid, be sure it fits well, and wear it.

Last updated October 29, 2010




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