Understand the risk factors for falls and get practical tips on reducing the risk of falling for seniors and their caregivers.
Most injuries affecting older people are the result of falls, but falls don’t just happen as we get older. More often than not, falls occur due to one or more risk factors. These include your physical condition or a medical problem, as well as safety hazards in your home or community environment. Personal risk factors include muscle weakness, especially in the legs; poor balance and difficulty walking; as well as a sudden drop in blood pressure (postural hypotension) when you get up from lying down or sitting.
Falls can cause broken bones, such as wrists, arms, or hip fractures. It may even cause head injuries. People who fall often can develop a fear of falling, which may cause them to reduce movement, have slower reflexes and cease everyday activities. As a result of reduced physical activity, you get weaker, and this increases your chances of falling. Although falls may happen due to accidents or risk factors,
they can actually be prevented.
Related: Stopping Falls
Most falls are caused by a combination of risk factors. The more risk factors you have, the greater your chances of falling.
Related: Preventing Falls at Home
Engaging in at least 150 – 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity weekly will help increase your endurance. Try to do a mix of physical activity, especially strength, balance and flexibility exercises at least 3 days a week. For example, do exercises such as Tai Chi, Pilates or swimming to strengthen your muscles and improve your balance. On other days that week, do aerobic exercises such as brisk walking, Zumba or cycling to improve your heart health and circulation. You will find that your balance and gait will improve, and reduce the risk of a fall. Regular physical activity will also reduce symptoms of postural hypotension.Try these seven easy exercises!
Related: Keep Track of your Exercise Intensity
When bones are weak, they tend to break more easily. This is known as osteoporosis. By taking enough
calcium-rich foods every day, you can keep your bones strong. These include low-fat high-calcium milk, sardines, and cheese. Getting an adequate dose of vitamin D from sunlight also helps to keep bones healthy.
Vitamin D helps our body absorb calcium from the food we eat. It can be found in eggs, cod liver oil or fatty fish such as tuna, salmon and sardines. The best way to obtain sufficient vitamin D is to take a walk outdoors when the sun is up. 15 to 30 minutes of exposure to sunlight every day is all we need. However, avoid outdoor activities during the hottest period of the day (10:30 am to 3:30 pm).
Related: Keeping Bones Strong With Exercise and Calcium-Rich Foods
Get your eyes checked at least once a year to ensure a clear vision. Your doctor will also be able to detect if you are suffering from any eye conditions such as glaucoma or cataracts, or if your spectacles are fitted to a wrong or outdated prescription.
Related: Eye Care in Your 60s and Beyond
It is important to select footwear that gives you a secure footing on the ground which thus reduces your risk of slipping. Non-slip soles are essential for a good grip. Ensure that your shoes are comfortable and well fitted to prevent injury.
Related: Best Foot Forward
Making sure your home environment is risk-free
reduces chances of falling. Here are some ways to do so:
Related: Keep Your Family Safe With These Fall Prevention and Home Safety Tips
If you take four or more different types of medication, visit your doctor for a review at least once a year. Some medications might affect your coordination or balance, or cause dizziness, confusion, or sleepiness, which may increase your risk of falling.
Do bring along any other vitamins or supplements you may be taking as they may cause unwanted side effects when taken with your medication. Always consult your doctor before starting on any kind of medication or supplement.
Related: Know Your Medication
Avoid drinking alcohol as it can affect balance and reflexes, which may result in falls and fractures or other injuries.
For more information, contact Healthline 1800 223 1313 or visit the
Falls Prevention page.
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This article was last reviewed on
22 Nov 2023
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