Before the Fall
Before the Fall
By: Dr. Roger Landry, MD, MPH
Before you speak, ask yourself this question: will your words improve the silence?”
~From the book, Words Can Change Your Brain
If you knew that standing on one leg while brushing your teeth could help prevent you from falling without it resulting in serious injury, would you do it?
I know one woman who does just that. Nancy knew that tumbles and injuries seem to happen more frequently in her family so she decided to be proactive. She regularly stands on one leg while she brushes her teeth. She’s programming better balance in her inner ear, in her muscles, and in her brain. Integrating small things to challenge our balance into our daily lives can indeed reduce the likelihood of falling, and if we do fall, make it less likely we’ll experience a serious injury.
On average, one in three older adults over the age of 65 fall each year, raising the potential for significant injury, resulting in a lower quality of life and enormous medical costs. According to the CDC, the average medical cost of a fall resulting in injury is more than $19,400 per occurrence with that cost steadily climbing. The tragic part? Falls are not a normal part of the aging process – they can be prevented.
Five Ways to Prevent Falls
1) Keep Moving – Movement aids in maintaining balance, muscle strength and reaction time and decreases the chance of injury.
2) Eliminate “Slip and Trip” Hazards – If you’ve tripped over or bumped into something even once, consider moving it (e.g. power cords, furniture, rugs, loose stairway boards, above ground tree roots, anything that is a potential threat).
3) Keep and Build Your Strength – Well functioning muscles can help you recover from a misstep and avoid falling and support joints and bones if there is a fall, making fractures less likely.
4) Check in with Your Doctor – Be proactive in lowering your fall risk by getting your vision checked annually and asking your doctor if any of your medications can cause dizziness (and what modifications can be made to reduce this side effect). Stay hydrated (dehydration is another cause of dizziness). Lastly, if you do require a walking aid, make sure you learn how to use it correctly.
5) Manage Your Weight – When we’re overweight, the likelihood of a fall rises. If you need to lose weight, start small by just eating 10% less of whatever you’re currently eating. You will shed pounds slowly, but they will be pounds you’re unlikely to put on again.
With falls as with much of health, prevention is the key, and it’s never too early or late to start. No matter your age, you can take meaningful steps to avoid serious injury, making it more likely that you’ll live out this next phase of your life upright and moving down your path with confidence. Live long. Live well!