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Health Information Avoiding Falls

A Matter of Balance
Practical advice for fall prevention

More than one-third of adults 65 years of age and older fall each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The good news is that there are things you can do that may help you become more stable.

Things that can put you at risk for a fall:

  • Not having good footwear
  • Lack of muscle strength
  • Lack of flexibility
  • Having vision problems
  • Having balance problems
  • Having problems with your inner ear
  • Having certain diseases, like diabetes and some heart conditions
  • Side effects from some medications or interactions between medications

"One thing you may consider is getting a formalized assessment of your balance," says Diane Genaze, PT, director of physical therapy at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. "As part of this assessment, you'll learn what's causing your balance problems. Also, you'll learn what you can do that will help you move around more safely in your environment."

Preventing a fall:

  • Pump some iron: Strengthening your muscles and exercising your balance may be the first steps to preventing a fall. Ask your doctor if exercise is right for you and if he or she can recommend someone for you to talk to about an exercise program.
  • Have eyes and ears checked: Having your vision and hearing tested can also help you find if there have been any changes to your eyesight or hearing that could put you at risk for a fall.
  • Check medication for potential side effects: Check with your doctor or pharmacist to see if any of the medication or combination of medications that you're taking could be affecting your balance.
  • Limit the amount of alcohol you drink: Even a small amount can affect your reflexes and balance.

Avoiding a fall indoors:

  • Wear well-fitting, solid shoes with a good tread on the sole
  • Have good lighting, especially in well-traveled areas of your home like hallways, kitchens, bedrooms, bathrooms, etc.
  • Make sure there are no obstructions in your path, like electrical cords, stacks of newspaper, boxes, etc. Take care to remove these obstacles.
  • Make sure all rugs are secured and that there are no parts that might catch your foot when you walk.
  • Make sure room temperature is comfortable.
    • If it's too hot you may get dizzy, if it's too cold it may make you stiff
  • Take your time.
    • "For example, sit at the edge of the bed with both feet firmly planted on the ground and make sure that you're nice and steady before getting up," suggests Genaze.
    • Also, take your time when getting up after sitting for some time. If you get up too quickly, your blood pressure can drop and you might experience dizziness.

Having your balance assessed, building your strength and flexibility and taking some simple precautions can reduce your risk of experiencing a fall.

For more information about having your balance assessed, visit the home page for the Balance Assessment and Treatment Program at Rush.

Looking for information on other health topics? Visit our Health Information home page.

Please note: All physicians featured in Discover Rush Online are on the medical faculty of Rush University Medical Center. Some of the physicians featured are in private practice and, as independent practitioners, are not agents or employees of Rush University Medical Center.

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