Falls are the leading cause of injury-related death among adults 65 and over. Most reports lead people to believe that falling is a normal part of the aging process. Although the risk of falling may increase with age, most falls are not age-related and can possibly be prevented.
There are several fall-related risk factors that have been identified. These risk factors can be significantly reduced by making simple lifestyle modifications:
Home Safety: Removing or securing area rugs will eliminate the risk of slipping and falling on the rug. Installing sturdy grab bars in the bathrooms, night lights in dark hallways and removing clutter from walkways and stairs are easy changes that can be made in the home to reduce the risk of falling.
Community Safety: Falling hazards in the community are a little more difficult to change than those in the home. However, being aware of the potential risk of a fall can greatly reduce the chance of falling. Avoid walking on uneven surfaces (dirt or grass) that may not provide stable footing. Pay attention when walking on surfaces that may present obstacles such as uneven pavements, stepping on or off a curb or stepping over a parking lot bumper.
Medical Conditions: Medical conditions (heart disease, Parkinson’s disease, arthritis) and especially conditions that influence vision, inner ear and other sensory systems that influence balance can increase the risk of falling. Understanding the influence that a condition can have on the risk of falling and taking necessary precautions will decrease the chance of falling.
Medications: Taking more than four medications increases the risk of falling. This risk may be reduced by discussing medications with a medical professional.
Functional Ability: Lack of muscular strength and flexibly can increase the risk of falling. Participating in balance exercises in addition to strengthening and stretching exercises will increase mobility and decrease the risk of falling.
This is part 1 of a 3-part series on balance and fall prevention. Kimberly Huff is the Fitness Director at Heron Point of Chestertown, an Acts Retirement-Life Community.