by Katherine Matutes, Ph.D.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports the 2010 cost of falls among older Americans approached $30 billion. As the country's Baby Boomers continue to age, that cost is only expected to go up each year.
There are some steps you can take to reduce your risk for falls at any age. Here are five common causes for falls and ways to remedy them.
Trip Hazards – Inspect your environment for trip hazards such as throw rugs, improperly stored shoes, cracks in the sidewalk. Address the changes that need to made in your home and scan for balance challenges when you are out and about.
Poor Vision – Individuals with poor vision, untreated cataracts or glaucoma have among the highest fall rates. Maintain a current prescription for your glasses or contacts if you need corrective eyewear and have an annual eye exam.
Loss of muscle strength – Muscle weaknesses can make it difficult to execute everyday movements. Perform exercises that mimic your everyday balance challenges; for example if stepping out of the tub is difficult for you, practice leg lifts with one hand supported by a counter or chair to strengthen the muscle used to complete the leg lifting motion.
Medication prompted dizziness – Some medications can alter your balance and increase the chances of falling. Be sure to check with your doctor or pharmacist about the risk of balance challenges with both prescription drugs and over the counter medications to increase your awareness consuming them.
Loss of flexibility or range of motion – As we age some individuals begin to shorten their walking gait in response to a loss of flexibility in the leg or hip muscles, this produces a gait referred to as the “senior shuffle” where feet are scooted across the floor instead of picked up for each step. The scooting motion itself increase the chances of catching a toe and tripping, but the shuffling also decreases a person's base of balance and makes it easier for them to wobble. Attend a tai chi or gentle yoga class to maintain your flexibility and range of motion of your joints.
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