Simple Steps to Reduce Your Risk of Falling

Can you name the most common cause of injury among older Americans? It’s falling—which happens to one in four adults age 65 or older each year—according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This tallies up annually to 29 million falls that result in 3 million emergency department visits, 850,000 hospitalizations, and 29,000 deaths. The good news is that the risk of falling can be reduced by taking a few simple steps.

Tell your healthcare provider. A fall can be caused by a health condition or medication you’re taking. If you have fallen or feel unsteady at times, it’s important to evaluate your risk with your healthcare provider and develop a plan for fall prevention. Be sure to have your provider check your feet annually too. Discuss proper footwear and whether you should see a podiatrist.

Get an eye exam annually. A visit to an eye doctor will diagnose conditions that may limit your vision, like glaucoma or cataracts. If your eyeglasses prescription has changed, be sure to update your lenses.

Improve your balance and strength. Adopt an exercise regimen to strengthen your core and leg muscles. Tai chi, a gentle and graceful form of exercise and stretching, has been shown to help reduce falls. As an extra bonus, a recent study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that tai chi also helped improve brain function.

Make home modifications. More than half of all falls take place at home. Remove hazards such as clutter, throw rugs, and poor lighting. Install grab bars and handrails. Add non-slip materials to tubs, showers, and stairs.

Be cautious when walking Fido. A study in JAMA Surgery found a dramatic rise in bone fractures attributed to canine companions. When walking your best buddy, stay aware of your environment and take extra precautions during inclement weather. Investing in a retractable leash and obedience training can also help.

Taking these steps will lower your fears of falling and help you continue enjoying the activities you love most.

JULIE LEYDELMEYER

For Additional Information

National Council on Aging
ncoa.org/healthy-aging/falls-prevention

Centers for Disease Control
cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/falls