Emergency teams treat about 2.5 million older adults for fall injuries each year, and more than 730,000 of these patients are hospitalized. But contrary to popular belief, falls and aging do not have to go hand in hand. You can take action to prevent a fall and mitigate the injury if one occurs.
Strengthen your bones
Maintaining healthy bones won’t prevent a fall but doing so may prevent injury, or even death, if you do fall.
- Get enough calcium. Women over 50 should consume 1,000 mg of calcium a day and men over 70 should consume 1,200 mg. High-calcium foods include low-fat dairy products; dark, leafy green vegetables (broccoli, kale, bok choy); tofu; sardines and salmon with bones; almonds; and calcium-fortified foods like orange juice and cereal. Remember to get your fill of vitamin D, too, which helps the body absorb calcium.
- Exercise at least 30 minutes each day. Physical activity, such as lifting weights or walking, improves bone and muscle strength.
- Quit smoking and limit alcohol. Smoking and heavy alcohol consumption can decrease bone mass, which increases the risk of fractures.
Consider a device
If you feel unstable when you walk, you may want to try a cane or walker. Meet with a physical therapist for help choosing the best device for you, getting fitted and learning how to use it. Canes come in different lengths, grips and shapes. Walkers provide a wider base of support and come with a variety of wheel/brake combinations as well as accessories, such as baskets. Another tool you may want to consider is a reacher or grabber, which helps you pull lightweight items from high shelves and off the ground, so you don’t have to stand on a stool or bend over.
Fall-proof your house
Sixty percent of falls happen at home, and many accidents are preventable. Follow these 10 easy tips to create a safer environment.
- Secure carpet and rugs to the floor.
- Immediately clean up spills and avoid wet floors.
- Remove clutter or anything that could cause tripping, such as pet bowls or small furniture.
- Tame loose cords.
- Store frequently accessed items in easy-to-reach places.
- Install staircase railings.
- Mount grab bars in the bathroom.
- Improve lighting, especially over the stairs and next to the bed.
- Arrange furniture so that you have plenty of space to walk.
- Avoid going out alone in the snow or ice.
If you’re concerned about falling, consider a fall prevention program. Speak with your doctor to find out if there are any available in your community.