Prevent fall-related injuries with these 10 tips
The younger we are, the easier it is to bounce back from a fall. But as we get older, falling can become more dangerous. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that from 2007 to 2016 there’s been a 31% increase in the national rate of older adult deaths from falls.1
That’s why it’s important to prevent trips, slips, and falls. And the best time to start reducing that risk is right now — no matter your age. So, whether you’re trying to reduce your risk of fall-related injuries later in life or are concerned about an aging loved one or parent, here are a few tips to consider:
1. Strengthen your muscles and bones
Having strong muscles can help you keep your balance and stabilize your joints — specifically your ankles. Doing regular calf and ankle strengthening exercises — like heel and chair rises, balancing on one leg, and squats — can help. Consistently practicing gentle exercises like tai chi or yoga can also help build stability.
And when you strengthen your muscles, you’re making your bones stronger, too.2 Stronger bones means you’re less likely to experience a fracture or break if you do fall.
2. Learn about your prescribed medications
If you’ve noticed a sudden change in balance, medication could be the culprit. Because fall-relates injuries and deaths are on the rise, researchers at the University of Washington and Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute are looking for ways to reduce the risk. They started a study to find out if reducing certain medications can prevent the likelihood of falls among seniors. The study is focusing on medications prescribed for anxiety and insomnia, which are often taken with pain relievers. But there are other medications that may also affect balance.
In general, it’s a good idea to see if current prescribed medications may make you or your loved ones more prone to falls. Learn about the side effects — and talk to your doctor about any concerns you may have. Also, ask your doctor about potential medication combinations that could result in dizziness, weakness, or sleepiness.
3. Take care of your feet
Your feet are an important part of your stability. You can avoid falls by:
- Wearing comfortable, non-slip shoes that fit you properly. Avoid shoes that are loose, have no traction or grip on the soles, or have a high heel. When you’re at home, you’ll also want to avoid wearing slippers without treads or socks.
- Talking to your doctor if you’re experiencing any foot pain or discomfort while walking or standing. Even having calluses or corns on your feet could make you more likely to fall.
4. Schedule regular eye exams
Eyesight changes can increase the risk of falling. When our vision is impaired — even just a little — we’re more likely to misjudge distances and trip. Even if you don’t wear glasses, it’s a good idea to schedule regular eye exams with your doctor.
5. Take your time
If you ever get light-headed when getting up too quickly, be sure to take your time. When getting up from a lying-down position, try to sit up slowly and count to 10 while still seated. Then, once you stand up, give yourself a few moments to adjust before starting to walk.
6. Get enough rest
You’re the best judge of when you need rest, so listen carefully to your body. We’re more prone to accidents when we’re feeling exhausted or worn out. And if you’re ever feeling dizzy or weak, seek medical care as soon as possible.
7. Stay hydrated
When your body isn’t getting enough water, you’re more likely to experience light-headedness, dizziness, or loss of consciousness. Staying properly hydrated — especially during warmer weather — helps keep your body well balanced.
8. Fall-proof your home
Many accidents happen at home. These accidents can be caused by clutter, slippery flooring, or poor lighting. To make your home safer, you’ll want to:
- Fix anything that could cause someone to trip. This could include raised thresholds, frayed carpeting, and loose flooring.
- Consider putting sturdy handrails in the stairways, shower or tub, and by the toilet.
- Avoid using a ladder or step stool whenever possible. Try keeping everything you need on shelves that are easy to reach.
- Brighten up your home with lots of lights that you can quickly access — even in the dark. You may also want to invest in things like motion sensors or night lights.
- Install a phone next to your bed on the floor so if you do fall, you’ll be able to contact emergency services without needing help up.
- Clean up right away. If something spills, mop it up as soon as possible.
9. Stay safe outside
We have less control over the outside world than we do in our own homes. But there are precautions we can take to avoid accidents. To stay safe outside, try the following:
- Hold on to the handrails whenever you’re going up or down stairs or escalators.
- Keep your hands free by wearing a backpack, fanny pack, or an across-the-body bag or purse.
- Pay attention to possible slipping hazards and avoid them whenever possible. If a walkway looks icy or slippery, try taking another route.
- Go slow when stepping down from or up onto a curb.
- Avoid multitasking while walking. You’ll want to stay off mobile devices until you’re standing still or in a seated or resting position.
10. Talk to your doctor
The best way to create a fall-prevention plan is by talking to your doctor. Set up an appointment to discuss your medications, history of falls, and current health conditions. Together, you can work to decrease fall-risk with a prevention plan that works best for your life.
1“Deaths From Falls Among Persons Aged ≥65 Years — United States, 2007–2016,” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, May 11, 2018, cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/67/wr/mm6718a1.htm.
2 “The Effects of Progressive Resistance Training on Bone Density: a Review,” Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, January 1999, journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/fulltext/1999/01000/the_effects_of_progressive_resistance_training_on.6.aspx.