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Preventing Falls and Fractures

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

Many things can cause a fall. Your eyesight, hearing, and reflexes might not be as sharp as they were when you were younger. Diabetes, heart disease, or problems with your thyroid, nerves, feet, or blood vessels can affect your balance. Some medicines can cause you to feel dizzy or sleepy, making you more likely to fall. And for people with osteoporosis – which affects both women and men – even a minor fall may be dangerous.

But 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 helps you stay healthy. The good news is that there are simple ways you can prevent most falls.

Take The Right Steps

If you take care of your overall health, you may be able to lower your chances of falling. Most of the time, falls and accidents don’t “just happen.” Here are a few hints that will help you avoid falls and broken bones:

STAY PHYSICALLY ACTIVE. Plan an exercise program that is right for you. Regular exercise improves muscles and makes you stronger. 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.

HAVE YOUR EYES AND HEARING TESTED. Even small changes in sight and hearing may cause you to fall. 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.

FIND OUT ABOUT THE SIDE EFFECTS OF MEDICINES YOU TAKE. If a drug makes you sleepy or dizzy, tell your doctor or pharmacist.

GET ENOUGH SLEEP. If you are sleepy, you are more likely to fall.

LIMIT THE AMOUNT OF ALCOHOL YOU DRINK. Even a small amount of alcohol can affect your balance and reflexes.

STAND UP SLOWLY. Getting up too quickly can cause your blood pressure to drop. That can make you feel wobbly.

USE A WALKING STICK IF YOU NEED HELP FEELING STEADY WHEN YOU WALK. If your doctor tells you to use a cane or walker, make sure it is the right size for you and the wheels roll smoothly. This is very important when you’re walking in areas you don’t know well or in places where the walkways are uneven.

BE VERY CAREFUL WHEN WALKING ON WET OR ICY SURFACES. They can be very slippery! Try to have sand or salt spread on icy areas by your front or back door.
WEAR NON-SKID, RUBBER-SOLED, LOW-HEELED SHOES, OR LACE-UP SHOES WITH NON-SKID SOLES THAT FULLY SUPPORT YOUR FEET. It is important that the soles are not too thin or too thick. Don’t walk around on stairs or floors in socks or in shoes and slippers with smooth soles.

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