RIO GRANDE VALLEY - Did you know that falls are the leading cause of injuries in older Americans? According to the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 25-percent of Americans aged 65 and older fall each year. Since June is National Safety Month, let us focus on how to prevent this common injury and understand the life-changing effects that can occur after a fall.

Many seniors who experience the trauma of falling endure physical pain, caused by injuries such as hip fractures, head bumps and broken bones. Those who have previously fallen or are nervous about it often develop debilitating anxiety. This fear can have a significant impact on their quality of life. Individuals may limit their future activity level and decrease social engagements. This can result in additional functional limitations, physical decline, depression, and social isolation.

Falling or the fear of falling can be traumatic, so it is vital to work through the steps to prevent this from happening. When analyzing fall-risk prevention, there are a few essential things to consider. First, acknowledging common risk factors that can cause a fall. Then, diving into preventive measures that can help you stay healthy and improve your quality of life.

Here are just a few simple steps that you can follow to reduce your risk and improve safety.

Physical Risks: In general, as people grow older, certain risk factors can occur, such as poor balance, poor vision, and reduced muscle mass. These physical changes for older adults can take their toll as age and lack of movement can lead to a decline in coordination, flexibility, and balance. Talk with your doctor for recommendations on exercise programs, walking aids, or other ideas that can help improve your balance and muscle strength.

Chronic Conditions: More than 80% of older adults have at least one chronic condition, such as stroke, diabetes or arthritis, which can lead to inactivity, pain, and a decline in function. Becoming aware of chronic diseases and working with your doctor to manage them can help reduce your risk of falling so you feel healthier overall!

Environmental Hazards: Poorly placed furniture and items on the floor in your home may increase your risk of tripping and falling. Make simple modification in your home to make it safer. Have family or friends come over to help. Remove throw rugs and clutter. Improve lighting and secure loose handrails.

Eyesight: Vision changes are an inevitable aspect of aging, making it more difficult to see obstacles. As we age, it is important to have your vision checked on a regular basis. If you have trouble with eyesight, it is especially important to analyze hazards in your home that may increase your risk of tripping and falling. Simple solutions such as wearing non-slip socks can be essential as getting checkups with your doctor.

Medication: Review your medications for side effects that could potentially increase your chance of falling. For example, if you experience any dizziness, frequent urination, lightheadedness, drowsiness or restlessness when taking a medication, make sure to discuss this with your primary care provider. Medications that may heighten your risk include over-the-counter drugs, such as Benadryl. 

Available Resources: Physical therapists are the musculoskeletal experts. They can work with you to develop a program to improve strength, balance, and functional mobility. Talk to your doctor about a referral to physical therapy if you have experienced any recent falls or have difficulty performing daily activities such as getting out of a chair, stepping onto a curb, or general feelings of unsteadiness.

The good news is most falls can be prevented. Don’t live in fear of falling. Be proactive and take steps to increase mobility and balance. Reduce your fall risk and improve your health and wellness!