Taking Steps to Avoid Falls
The National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in Atlanta, recently reported that falls are now the leading cause of injury-related deaths among people aged 65 and over. However, while aging is inevitable, falls and related injuries do not have to be.
In conjunction with the Atlanta Centers, Brian M. Franklin, a certified athletic trainer at University Orthopedics in Atlanta and the MetLife Foundation, offers a number of suggestions for maintaining a strong body, and preventing falls by creating a safe living environment.
For increased stability, it is important to build muscle in the thighs and trunk. A simple exercise one can perform is to lie flat on the floor and raise one leg at a time, a foot off the floor, holding it there for 10 seconds. By gradually building up to 10 repetitions with each leg, thigh muscles will become noticeably stronger.
A good sense of balance is also important if falls are to be prevented. One exercise that may improve balance is to gently holding the back of a sturdy chair, raise one foot off the floor, then try to let go of the chair. This exercise can be developed by performing it with eyes closed, or on tip toes. Another activity proven to improve balance is Tai Chi.
Frequent stretching of the legs and hips may help to reduce the loss of flexibility suffered by many older people, which in turn, may also prevent falls or related injuries.
People over the age of 50 should undergo annual eye examinations by an ophthalmologist and ensure that they are wearing glasses with the correct prescription. If cataract surgery is required, it should not be postponed. Franklin also advises people to seek advice from their pharmacist if they take any medications, to determine whether any of them may cause dizziness or drowsiness.
There are many ways to create a safe living environment and prevent trips and falls in the home. Stairways should be kept well-lit, and free from objects and debris. Stairs should be in good condition, with carpet or non-slip rubber treads on each step. A handrail should be installed and used at all times.
Effective home lighting should be set up. Place easily reachable lamps in the bedroom and a nightlight between the bedroom and the bathroom. Fluorescent bulbs may offer better light than incandescent bulbs and lightweight curtains or shades on windows will help to reduce glare.
Frequently-used items should be stored on shelves that are easy to reach. If this is not possible, a sturdy stool with a frame to hold onto should be used.
Common slips and falls in the bathroom can also be easily prevented. Non-slip rubber mats, (ones with many small suction cups are best) or sticky safety strips are useful for use on the floor of the shower. If bathroom floors are not carpeted, tiles or other potentially slippery surfaces should be covered with a non-slip bathmat. Grab bars next to the toilet may also be useful.
Finally, Franklin recommends wearing shoes inside and outside of the house, and if stability is an issue, avoid wearing high heels.
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