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7 tips for keeping your balance as you age

Paula Mantei, ARNP

Falling can be a real fear among elderly adults—and for good reason. One in four Americans age 65 and older falls each year, making it the leading causes of fatal and non-fatal injuries for that age group. Hip fractures can be particularly devastating because they require major surgery, which can result in complications.

The good news is that falls are preventable. Here are the top things you can do to stay stable on your feet.

  1. Fit in exercise. Maintaining your strength and balance by staying active is the single best way to avoid falling. Walking is a great way to keep your heart heathy and your muscles engaged. Tai Chi, a centuries-old Chinese martial art, uses slow purposeful movements help maintain flexibility without wearing out the joints. Yoga, swimming, and chair exercises are also options, depending on your ability level.
  2. Schedule regular wellness visits. Providers are important partners in helping you stay healthy. They can help determine if you’re at risk of falling or narrow down the cause of any past incidents. They can also connect you with physical therapy and other resources to improve your strength or gait. Remember, if you’ve fallen in the past, the best thing you can do is stay active. Sitting leads to muscle atrophy and more balance problems, rather than fewer.
  3. Update your medications. Some medications are associated with falls in elderly adults. Even if you’ve been using the same prescription for years, it can start impacting you differently as you age. Taking more than four medications also puts you at a greater risk of falls. Your provider can work with you to find substitute medications or other solutions. For example, pelvic floor exercises can help women on diuretics achieve better bladder control and avoid the hazard of running to the bathroom quickly.
  4. Get your vision checked. Cataracts cloud your vision and can make it difficult to move safely. Cataract surgery is fast and safe for most individuals, and can make a significant difference in your ability to get around.
  5. Outfit your home for safety. Take care of tripping concerns such as throw rugs, uneven flooring, and household clutter. Get grab bars and handrails installed. Add non-slip mats and shower seats to bathrooms. Talk to your provider about whether you would benefit from having an occupational therapist visit your home to suggest solutions.
  6. Wait to walk. When you stand up, give yourself a minute before you start moving. Changing positions can lead to altered blood flow, which can cause dizziness. If you’ve been eating, your body is already sending extra blood away from your head and to your stomach, so you need more time to regain your equilibrium. Taking an extra moment can keep you from tumbling.
  7. Stay hydrated. Dehydration can lead to dizziness and falls. Drink plenty of water, particularly when it’s hot.

Learn more about specific changes you can make to reduce your risk of falling by talking to your provider at Vancouver Clinic.

Paula Mantei is a nurse practitioner at Vancouver Clinic. She believes that communication is the key to taking great care of patients.