The risk of sustaining a fracture increases with age and is a great concern for those people who have a chronic condition such as arthritis and osteoporosis. These conditions can often result in a reduction in physical activity, mobility, strength and balance which can lead to the risk of sustaining a fall.
It is important to be aware of major risk factors such as poor footwear or inadequate management of your medicines that can contribute to the risk of falling.
Exercise is very beneficial and can improve your muscular strength and balance, but most importantly it gives you the confidence to enjoy a productive lifestyle. There are many exercise programs available through your local area health service and you can also contact our office for further information regarding falls prevention.
Exercise helps posture and balance
People with better posture, better balance and stronger muscles are much less likely to fall and therefore less likely to be injured. For example, women who sit for more than nine hours a day are more likely to have a hip fracture than those who sit for less than six hours a day. Some special exercise programs can reduce the risk of falling by about 20% and can also decrease serious injury from falls. These are programs for elderly people that are tailored to each older person’s needs, and include progressive muscle strengthening, improving balance and walking.
Weak muscles, changes in blood pressure or heart rate, medications, ear problems and even a poor diet can all affect balance.
As well as regular exercise, you can improve balance if you:
- Ask your doctor or physiotherapist about exercises to improve balance
- Maintain a healthy diet that includes fresh fruit and vegetables and calcium rich foods
- Make sure you drink plenty of water each day
- Consider a special ‘falls and balance’ program or class (check out your local community health centre, health promotion unit or call us on 1800 011 041.
Other tips to prevent falls
Around the home
- Make sure mats, rugs and carpet edges are lying flat on the ground or remove them
- Remove electrical cords from walking areas
- Avoid walking on slippery or wet surfaces
- Make sure rooms are well lit and free of clutter
- Take care getting in and out of bed, go slowly, and use a bed frame if needed
- Consider installing a hand rail on at least one side of any stairs, and next to baths, showers and toilets
- Consider putting safety strips on edges of outdoor stairs
- Beware of pets when you are moving around
- Make sure your home is well lit so you can see where you are going at all times
- Have your eyes tested every year by an optometrist
- If you wear glasses, use them as directed. Be careful when going up and down stairs if you wear bifocals or trifocals
- Wear sunglasses outside to minimize glare and squinting and to protect your eyes from UV damage.
- Wear shoes with a broad heel, non-slip soles and good foot support