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11 ways to reduce your risk of falls

Did you know that falls are the No. 1 cause of injury and death in older adults? One in four older adults will fall at least once this year and one in five falls will cause serious injury (such as a broken bone or head injury).

Here are some signs you may be at risk for a fall and what you can do to protect yourself.

Fall risk factors:

  • Being over age 60.

  • Weakness.

  • History of prior falls.

  • Visual impairments.

  • Chronic conditions, such as dementia, arthritis or Parkinson’s disease.

  • Gait or balance issues.

  • Urinary incontinence.

  • Taking multiple medications, particularly medications for anxiety and chronic pain.

  • Improper use of assistive devices.

  • Home hazards.

  • Poor footwear.

Gregory Foster, M.D., a Piedmont family medicine and geriatric medicine physician, says falls can lead to injury and loss of independence—which can make some people fearful.

“Studies show a fear of falling may make people less active and wary of doing their normal activities. This may make them weaker, which actually increases their risk of falling,” Dr. Foster says. “If ‘fall-phobia’ is affecting your daily life, let your physician know. It may be uncomfortable to discuss, but medical providers can offer solutions.”

How to prevent falls

You can reduce your risk of falls with the following tips:

  • Consult with your health care provider for a fall risk assessment and what you can do to prevent falls.

  • Do strength and balance exercises. Consult with your physical or occupational therapist for specific recommendations.

  • Have your vision checked once a year.

  • Make your home safer:

    • Remove or secure items you can trip over, like rugs, clutter or cords.

    • Make sure your home has good lighting.

    • Install grab bars in the bathroom.

    • Put railings on both sides of indoor and outdoor steps.

    • Be mindful of pets and the risk they pose for falling.

    • Wear supportive, nonslip footwear.

    • Use an appropriate assistive device, such as a cane or walker.

    • Wear an alarm device in case you fall and can’t get up.

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