Health tips about fall prevention may not seem like an interesting topic, but it’s important. As we get older, physical changes, health conditions and sometimes medications make falls more likely. In fact, one in three adults over the age of 65 fall each year and 60 percent of all hospital emergency room visits of patients age 65 and older are due to a fall. But don’t let the fear of falling rule your life. Instead, consider the risk factors and easy steps you can take to decrease your risk of falling:
Did you know two out of three falls is preventable? Not only is it important to understanding what the most common risk factors for falling are, but it’s also important to evaluate your own personal situation to better prevent falls from occurring in the first place.
Common risk factors include:
• Poor vision and diagnoses such as glaucoma, cataracts and macular degeneration
• Weakness and tightness in limbs, difficulty walking or with movement, poor balance, use of assistive devices
• Taking more than four medications, adverse drug reactions, dizziness, sleepiness, decreased blood pressure
• Postural hypotension, slow reflexes
• Unsafe footwear or foot problems
• Pre-existing mobility impairment, prior history of falls, and balance impairment are the most important risk factors for falls after hospitalization.
• Age older than 80 years
• Arthritis, depression, cognitive impairment
• Cardiovascular disorders, including arrhythmias
Now that you know what your personal falling risk factors may be, we encourage you to reduce your risk by being proactive to address your particular risk factors. This may include scheduling an appointment with your primary care physician or buying more stable, supportive shoes.
Other tips to decreasing your fall risk include:
• Have vision and hearing checked regularly.
• Exercise regularly and include strength, balance, flexibility and coordination in your program
• Review your medications with your doctor or pharmacist.
• Get up slowly; sit for a few minutes before standing.
• Wear supportive rubber-sole shoes, non-skid socks.
• Report all falls to your healthcare provider.
• Use a cane or walker if prescribed by your doctor.
• Have annual physical checkups.
With 75 percent of falls occurring at home, the last important step in preventing falls is to take a hard look around your house. Do you have area rugs, rubber mats in the shower, electrical cords lying around? These are trip hazards just waiting to happen. The following list will help you will help you make your home and you safer:
• Firmly attach carpets or rugs; use skid-proof rubber backing; or remove them.
• Clear pathways of clutter and electrical cords.
• Use raised toilet seats, grab bars near the toilet and shower, shower chair and rubber mats.
• Install handrails on both sides of stairs.
• Use a sturdy step stool with a handle.
• Eat well-balanced meals and make sure you get your daily requirement of Vitamin D.
• Paint or tape a bright contrast color to top edge of stairs.
• Use adequate lighting in the home and outdoors; have a light near the bed and use a night light.
• Subscribe to personal emergency response service; have cell phone within reach; have emergency numbers handy.
The good news about falls is that most are preventable. With these easy tips you can reduce your risk of falling or the risk of an aging parent, grandparent, or neighbor in your life experiencing a fall. With a little effort these tips can help you gain confidence to not let the fear of falling rule your life and keep you happy, healthy and independent as long as possible.
NHCH 25th Senior Health Fair: Join us on Sunday, May 19th for our hospital’s 25th Annual Senior Health Fair from 8 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. This free event is for North Hawaii seniors 55 and older and offers free health screenings, wellness information, entertainment, bingo and lunch. Call 881-4425 for more information or visit www.NHCH.com.