Loss of balance, it turns out, is not just a problem for the oldest of old. Instead — like strength, agility and muscle mass — balance tends to start declining in midlife, that’s right at age 40 to 65. We think of falling as an older person’s problem because we oftentimes see the devastating end results of older people falling and seriously hurting themselves.
About one-third of seniors over the age of 65 falls each year, and the risk increases proportionately with age. At age 80 and up, over half of seniors fall annually. Those who fall are two to three times more likely to fall again. Falls are the leading cause of death due to injury among seniors and 87% of all fractures seen in them are due to falls.
If you have osteoporosis, you are more likely to break a bone if you fall. Osteoporosis is called the “silent disease” because bones become weak with no symptoms. You may not know that you have it until a strain, bump, or fall causes a bone to break. If a person with osteoporosis falls and breaks a bone, their recovery time will be lengthy.
Falling can be really scary for so many folks across the board but those who are afraid, tend to fall! If there are no serious medical issues that need to be addressed, here are a few tips from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases on how to prevent falling indoors and out:
- Use a cane or walker for balance
- Wear rubber-soled shoes to avoid slipping
- Walk on grass when sidewalks are slick
- Throw salt or kitty litter on icy sidewalks.
Help prevent falls:
- Keep rooms free of clutter, especially on floors
- Avoid walking on slippery wet tile or marble floors
- Wear low-heeled shoes that grip
- Do not walk in socks, stockings, or slippers without a grip
- Be sure rugs have skid-proof backs or are tacked to the floor
- Be sure stairs are well lit and have rails on both sides
- Put grab bars on bathroom walls in the tub, shower, and next to the toilet
- Use a non-skid bath mat in the shower or tub
- Keep a flashlight next to your bed
- Use a sturdy step stool with a handrail and wide steps
- Add more lighting in rooms
- Buy a cordless phone so that you don’t have to rush to the phone when it rings and so that you can call for help if you fall
- Use a shoulder bag, fanny pack, or backpack purse to leave your hands free
- Stop at curbs and check the height before stepping up or down
- Consider wearing hip protectors or hip pads for added protection should you fall
You can also do exercises to improve your balance. While holding the back of a chair, sink, or counter…
- Stand on one leg at a time for a minute and then slowly increase the time. Try to balance yourself with your eyes closed or without holding on.
- Stand on your toes for a count of 10, and then rock back on your heels for a count of 10.
- Make a big circle to the left with your hips, and then to the right. Do not move your shoulders or feet. Repeat five times.
If you fall and can’t get up, follow the steps below:
- Cry out for medical assistance
- If you have a fall prevention lanyard, take it out to serve as identification. Use your cell phone to call for help if you have it on hand and can reach it without straining yourself.
- If you don’t have a cell phone or emergency call device on hand, drag yourself to the nearest phone or seat
- Make as much noise as possible to draw attention to your situation. Bang with your walking implement if you need to stir up attention.
- Get over to a comfortable, safe, position and wait for help.
If any of the following things take place as a result of a fall, contact your physician whether symptoms appear immediately or days after–lingering pain, dizziness, nausea, weakness, loss of consciousness, any visually apparent injury, drowsiness, headache, or vision problems.
Try these exercises to help you maintain your balance…