5 Ways to Minimize Your Risk of Falling

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The first day of fall each year is Fall Prevention Awareness Day, a day set aside to raise awareness about falls-related injuries in older persons. It is also a good time for you to take stock in your current functional mobility and make some changes if necessary to prevent falling.

Falling can be a scary thing, and it can lead to serious injury. If you have fallen, then you understand how it can really shake your confidence and cause anxiety when moving about.

Falling is also a leading cause of injury in older persons and is the number one reason for a visit to the emergency room in people over age 65.

While some accidents are unavoidable, there are some things that you can do to help minimize your risk of falling. These simple changes that you make in your lifestyle may help prevent you from falling and suffering a serious injury.

  1. Fall-proof your home. People tend to spend much of their free time at home. You should take steps to ensure that your house is a safe place to be. Make sure that your home is well lighted both inside and out. Be aware of pets that may suddenly move under foot, and make sure throw rugs are securely in place with carpet pads. Installing grab bars in your bath or shower is also a good idea.
  2. Keep your hips strong. If your hips are weak, then you may find it difficult to walk normally.  You may exhibit a shuffling or waddling gait pattern which may lead to falling. By working on specific hip exercises like straight leg raises or the pelvic drop exercise, you may be able to maintain appropriate balance and prevent a fall from occurring. Remember, check in with your physical therapist before starting any exercise program to ensure it is safe for you to do.
  1. Strengthen your balance. The systems in your body that help you maintain appropriate upright balance include the peripheral nerves and muscles, the vestibular system, and your visual system. These systems work together to help maintain your balance, but these systems may not function properly unless you challenge them from time to time. Just like leg raises can help keep your hips strong, balance exercises can help keep your balance systems functioning properly. Be sure to check in with your doctor from time to time to have your vision checked as well.
  1. Check your vestibular system. Your vestibular system is located in your inner ear and works to help your brain process the position of your head, eyes, and body. Problems with your vestibular system may result in vertigo and spinning sensations, and this can lead to falls. The Fukuda Step Test is one simple way to monitor your vestibular system. Exercises for BPPV like the Brandt-Daroff technique or the Epley Maneuver can help keep your vestibular system functioning normally if you are suffering from vertigo caused by BPPV.
  2. Visit your physical therapist. Your local physical therapist is a movement expert. If you are experiencing loss of balance, have fallen, or are afraid of falling, then a visit to your PT is a good idea. He or she can perform an assessment of your current situation and can make specific recommendations that you can use to prevent falling. He or she may also use specialized exercise equipment (like a BAPS board) to help improve your balance.

If you have fallen or are feeling unsteady on your feet, check in with your doctor to ensure that you don't have a serious medical problem, and then get to work on making some lifestyle changes to help improve your balance and decrease your risk of falling.

 This may be the key to keep you upright, mobile, and safe while moving around throughout the day.

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