Coming up on September 22nd to the 28th is National Fall Prevention Awareness Week. Falls can happen to anyone at any age. However as we age, we do not bounce back so easily from a fall. So, we are offering this blog to give you some ideas to help you prevent falls for yourself or loved ones.
How big a problem is falling anyway?
In the United States, one in three seniors fall each year. Philips the company who makes and sells Lifeline products posted studies showing certain health conditions increase risk of falling. Their results have shown that seniors with osteoporosis and cognitive impairment diseases can fall more often than healthy seniors. Not all health conditions affect falling risk equally, however. Seniors with COPD fell 42 percent more, diabetes patients fell 30 percent more often. And those with heart conditions fell 29 percent more than their healthy counterparts. They also found that seniors with chronic conditions fell and required emergency transport up to 54 percent more often than those with no chronic health conditions. The complete findings are available at www.lifeline.philips.com/resources/fall-risk .
Staying healthier to avoid falling
Aging or disabilities bring an increased risk of falling. However, there are smart choices we can make to reduce the risks and improve our quality of life.
1. Stabilization exercises for fall prevention:
Foundation Training exercises are one of the best means of making you stable so that you will be less likely to fall. These exercises require no equipment and no need to go to a gym. And, they only require 15-20 minutes a day to help you be more stable on your feet. They also make you sturdier and less likely to sustain an injury if you do fall. Here is a link to the Foundation Training website where you can see these great exercises via streaming: https://www.foundationtraining.com/
(Foundation Training exercises are also fantastic if you should already have pain because they will help you recover more quickly.)
2. Staying active in general. Sedentary lifestyles can gradually cause poor flexibility, loss of strength and decreased bone mass—all of which will increase the chances of falling. Establishing a consistent fitness routine will put your body in better shape and make exercise easier as you get older. Joining a gym or Y, attending exercise classes at a council on aging, dancing, walking… finding any physical activity that you can enjoy regularly helps.
Arthritis stiffens joints making you less stable on your feet. Moving those joints with appropriate exercise for your age and ability keeps joints as mobile as possible. Keeping active also lessens the joint stiffness and discomfort.
Strength building exercises keep muscles strong. Weak muscles lead to increased likelihood of falling. Strengthening the proper postural muscles also pays off.
3. Your posture can make a big difference.
Here at the office we treat your stuck or arthritic joints that contribute to being unstable and unsteady. We also teach the Foundation training exercises during your office visit. In this way you can strengthen the core spinal stabilization muscles so you have better posture. For every bit that you are bent forward with your upper back humped and your head forward of your body, your balance will be thrown off more. Think about it. With most of your weight forward of your lower body, you will naturally pitch forward more easily.
4. Exercise improves blood sugar control:
For people who are diabetic and pre-diabetic, exercise also improves your body’s use of insulin so you are better able to control your blood sugars. People with poor blood sugar control can get neuropathy. Neuropathy can cause balance problems due to loss of foot sensation.
And, when you are healthier and more energetic you are more likely to avoid falls and injury.
Keep your joints and muscles in tune:
Your sense of balance comes from signals to your brain from your eyes, your inner ears and from your joints. The most joint signals come from your neck joints, specifically the movement and positions of those joints. Our chiropractic care helps those joints move as optimally as possible for you.
Muscles move joints. Stuck joints cause tight muscles making it difficult for you to move properly. Our treatments for your muscles and joints keep you moving as best as possible for your health and stability.
Nutrition and joint and muscle health for fall prevention
Proper food and nutritional supplement choices can help those with diabetes and neuropathy better control their symptoms by improving the health of their nerves.
Neuropathy can cause loss of muscle strength as well as loss of balance through having less position sense in your feet and legs. When you can’t tell where your feet are planted, you tend to fall.
Eating a low carbohydrate, low glycemic index diet helps. Eating meals high in good quality vegetables and proteins and low in white flour and sugar helps.
Taking supplements (when shown to be needed on blood tests) like a good B vitamin complex and Vitamin D help. Other nutrients that may be added if it is safe with your medications and condition may be omega 3 fish oils, and R lipoic acid and magnesium among others. For your specific needs you can schedule a nutritional consult with us to learn what could work best for your personal situation.
Arthritis stiffness and muscle stiffness and cramping can be helped with magnesium supplementation. Arthritic joints are also helped with glucosamine/chondroitin supplements, hyaluronic acid supplements, B vitamins and fish oil supplements.
Simple clothing choices can make a difference
Well fitting shoes help. Shoes that allow a normal gait for anyone unstable on their feet make a world of difference. Those shoes with high wooden or cork bottoms from front to back pitch the foot forward when walking because they do not allow a normal toe off. Those sneakers that were popular a few years back with the rounded bottoms sent many of a senior down onto the sidewalk. We saw an uptick of falls in our office from those. If you still own any, toss those.
Loose flip flops, or backless shoes that easily fall off your feet are also a danger. If you had to move fast to get out of the way of something, or to catch your balance, could you with what you have on your feet?
Long coats or skirts that can catch heels can also be a danger. I had a middle aged patient once whose heel caught in her long coat when she was going down a stairs. She fell down an entire flight of stairs. Luckily we were able to help her injuries. Still, going head first down a full flight of stairs is one of the worst falling situations.
Long skirts can also catch under your feet and cause a fall when climbing a stairs or when rising from a chair.
Fall Prevention in your house
Here are some simple home safety tips for preventing falls.
- Install handrails on both sides of stairs and front steps. Also make sure the ones you have are well secured and not wobbly or loose.
- When you have arthritis or balance issues it helps to install hand rails and grab bars in tub/shower and toilet areas.
- Make sure tub or shower has a slip proof surface or use a tub mat.
- Eliminate throw rugs that do not have non-slip backing or that have edges that roll up to catch people’s feet.
- Keep phone cords and power cords out of areas where people walk.
- Declutter the house, no magazines or papers or clothes on the floor, no unnecessary decorative pieces in areas where people are likely to walk.
- Keep animal and children’s toys picked up.
- Do not store shoes or other items on the edges of your stairs.
- Wipe up any spills immediately.
- Install good lighting throughout the house and use night lights in hallways and bathrooms. New LED lighting can give you brighter light and save on electric bills at the same time.
We hope you found these fall prevention tips helpful. If you need any help with some of the exercise, nutrition or chiropractic care, simply call us at 978-535-6155. If you need referrals for people to help you upgrade your home safety or fix some problems in your house to make it safer, we have a number of professionals we can refer.