It’s all too easy to fall and hurt yourself at any age, but you’re especially more vulnerable as you get older. More than one in three adults over age 65 fall each year, according to the National Institute on Aging. Here are a few other facts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to show that falls are serious business:
- More than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falling.
- The most common cause of a traumatic brain injury is a fall.
- Three million older people are treated each year in emergency departments for falls.
- Twenty percent of falls causes a serious injury such as a fracture or head injury.
- Medical costs for falls totaled more than $50 billion in 2015.
- So why are older adults are more vulnerable to falls? There are many reasons, according to the National Institute on Aging:
- Diseases that are more common with age, such as diabetes and heart disease, can affect your nerves, feet, and balance.
- Medications that are used more often in older adults can make it more likely that you will fall because they cause you to feel dizzy or off-balance. The more medications you take, the greater risk you have for a fall.
- There may be safety hazards at home or in other areas where you visit, such as uneven stairs or throw rugs that you could trip on.
- You may feel confusion that leads to a fall. For instance, you may not recognize where you are and you try to quickly move without realizing there are fall hazards around.
- Your senses may not be as strong as they once were, including your eyesight and hearing.
- Your blood pressure may drop too much when you go to stand up, and that causes dizziness and a feeling of imbalance.
- Your muscles are weaker than they once were.
- Poor footwear may make you more vulnerable to a fall.
10 Ways to Build Better Balance and Help Prevent Falls
Balance is one key element to help avoid falls. Your balance changes with age because of problems with the inner ear, circulatory problems (such as stroke), low blood pressure, or the use of medicines. Here are some tips to build up your balance as you get older, followed up some general tips to steer clear of falls.
1. Manage any long-term health problems. Because certain health problems (or the meds you use to treat them) can cause balance issues, it makes sense that getting those health problems under control can go a long way toward helping you maintain your balance. For instance, if a blood pressure issue affects your balance, aim to eat healthy, maintain a healthy weight, and drink enough fluids.
2. Exercise to strengthen your balance. You’ve probably heard a lot about the importance of heart-pumping cardio and strength training exercises. However, did you know that balance-building exercises are an important part of your exercise routine? Here are several balance-focused exercises from Silver Sneakers and Healthline. In addition, tai chi and yoga are great balance builders.
3. Boogie down! Dancing is a terrific way to improve your balance. Walking, biking and climbing stairs also can build up lower body strength, which helps with your balance
4. Review your medications with your doctor or pharmacist. You may not realize that there are certain medications you use that affect your balance. Or, you may have medications that interact with each other, causing a balance issue. Your doctor or a pharmacist can help point out any meds that cause dizziness, lightheadedness, or balance issues.
5. See your doctor if you think you have a balance disorder. Dizziness, feeling as if you’ll fall, and lightheadedness are among the signs of a balance disorder. Seek treatment so you can slash your risk for a fall.
6. Get regular eye exams. Most older adults should get an eye exam annually. In addition to checking for diseases like glaucoma and macular degeneration, an exam helps you to see (pun intended) if you need a new glasses prescription.
7. Review your home for fall hazards. You may be surprised by the number of things around the home that actually could cause you to fall, such as knick-knacks, throw rugs, and electrical cords. Here are a few quick suggestions to lower the risk for falls around the home:
- Put railings along your stairs.
- Add more light where needed.
- Install grab bars inside and outside your tub, shower and around the toilet.
8. Imbibe a little less. Alcohol, even a small amount, can increase your risk for a fall. Hip fractures in older adults increase with alcohol use, the National Institute on Aging reports.
9. Wear supportive footwear. Non-skid, rubber-soled, low-heeled shoes will properly support your feet, as do lace-up shoes with non-skid soles. Even when you’re at home. don’t walk on stairs or floors using only socks or shoes that have smooth soles. These will make it easier to fall.
10. Let your doctor know if you have had a fall since you last visited. This may tip off your doctor to a potential new medical problem or medication issues that can be adjusted. Also, your doctor may have other ideas to prevent future falls, including physical therapy or a walking aid, according to the National Institute on Aging.