Winter weather causes falling hazards for the most surefooted people. Mix snow and freezing rain with cold temperatures and you have a recipe that glazes sidewalks, parking lots and driveways with ice, increasing the risk of falls.
The seriousness of the risk increases exponentially if you are over 65 years old.
A fall at this age could be as life-threatening as a heart attack. The National Council on Aging reports an older person falls every 11 seconds in the U.S. More than 2.8 million older Americans are treated in U.S. emergency rooms each year for fall-related injuries.
As people get older, age-related physical changes increase the risk of falling.
Arthritis or joint pain makes it a bit harder to move. Vision changes interfere with depth perception making the navigation of steps and uneven surfaces a little trickier. Some people realize they are not as strong as they used to be.
Take steps today to prevent falling tomorrow.
Strengthen your muscles. Work with a physical therapist, orthopaedic specialist, or primary care provider to develop a series of exercises to strengthen the muscles in your legs, abdomen and back. Lower body and core strength create a firm base of support for movement.
Improve your balance. Join a Tai Chi class or practice an exercise routine designed to enhance your balance. At first, you may need assistance to steady yourself, but as your muscles and brain work together, you will gain more stability.
Go for a walk. During the winter months, many malls open their doors to walkers before the retail day starts. Check the malls in your area. Your local YMCA may also have an indoor track for you to use. When the weather is nice and the roads and sidewalks are clear, walk outside. Your bones will benefit from the Vitamin D from the sun.
If walking is good exercise, balance walking is great exercise. Using spring-loaded Nordic poles as you walk:
- increases circulation of oxygen-rich blood throughout your system
- engages 80 to 90 percent the muscles in your body
- reduces the pressure on all your joints by approximately 30 percent
- improves your posture
Balance walking is a win-win for your whole body.
Go to the eye doctor. Your vision is important for balance and well-being. If your vision has changed, invest in prescription glasses or contacts. The correct prescription will also help your depth perception, which is critical when gauging height and distance.
Pay attention to painted lines in parking lots or on streets. When the painted lines of parking spaces, pedestrian walkways or handicap-accessible parking spaces are wet, they become extremely slippery. Use care when crossing a parking lot. Look up for traffic and down for footing.
Invest in well-fitting shoes with slip-proof treads. Correct foot support can prevent sprains and strains. The slip-proof soles will help keep you steady and on your feet.
Boost your vitamin D level. Low levels of vitamin D hinder calcium absorption and can weaken your bones. Talk to your primary care provider about a blood test to check your body’s level of vitamin D. You may need to take a supplement. Boosting your levels can help you stand strong and tall.
Be mindful of your medication. Many people who are 65 years old and older take medication for heart issues, water retention, sleep, anxiety, depression, sugar regulation or pain relief. Some of these medications may cause dizziness or drowsiness. Ask your pharmacist if the combination of medicines you take make you more susceptible to falls. If you know your medication makes you dizzy or drowsy, plan your chores and outings around your medication schedule. It will help you minimize your risk of fall-related injuries.
Fall-proof your house. Clean up spills quickly. Install railings or grab bars. Remove clutter, throw rugs, magazines and other items that may create tripping hazards from the floor.
It’s easier to prevent a fall than to recover from one. For more information about fall prevention, visit bonejoint.net and read our blog.