One in four people over 65 will fall every year; however, falling is not a normal part of aging. Falls are serious at any age, but especially for older people who are more likely to break a bone when they fall. Many factors determine falls, of which medicines may be one; work with your physician to avoid certain drugs or lower the doses if appropriate.
Some tips for reducing fall risk are: get regular exercise, rise slowly from a chair or bed, have good lighting (at night, especially), use grab bars in the shower and remove all throw rugs. Additionally, keep rooms free of clutter, and wear low-heeled shoes. Do not walk in socks, stockings, or slippers.
Vitamin D, which helps the body use calcium, is used for reducing falls. It may help by improving bone, muscle and nerve health. A word of caution: before starting the vitamin, see your health care provider.
From the National Institutes of Health, here are some good exercises to improve balance. While holding onto a chair or counter:
- Stand on one leg at a time for a minute and then slowly increase the time. Try to balance with your eyes closed or without holding on, but stay next to the chair.
- Stand on your toes for a count of 10, then rock back on your heels for a count of 10.
- Make a big circle to the left with your hips, then to the right. Do not move your shoulders or feet. Repeat five times.
As explained by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, regular exercise can help keep your legs strong and reduce the likelihood of falls. Exercise programs that improve strength and balance at the same time, such as Tai Chi, are especially helpful.
Poor vision can lead to falls, so regular eye checkups are essential. Monitoring medication is also critical, as some drugs cause drowsiness or dizziness, making falls more likely. In addition, have your blood pressure checked regularly, as even low blood pressure may put you at risk for falls. Even some over the counter medicines, like antihistamines such as Benadryl (diphenhydramine) can make a person more at risk for falling; however, there are good alternatives: Claritin (loratadine) for instance. Your pharmacist can be of valuable help with this.