By Derick Young, M.D.
Falling is a leading cause of serious injury for adults 60 and older. These types of injuries can lead to a loss of independence and sometimes death. You can cut down the chance of falling by visiting your doctor for a check-up and making a few changes around your home.
National Falls Prevention Awareness Day is Tuesday, Sept. 22. It’s the perfect time to take the steps necessary to secure your health and home against falling.
Here are some of the most common risk factors that lead to falling.
- Medicines that cause dizziness or drowsiness, including antidepressants and sedatives
- Weakness in the lower body
- Vision problems
- Tripping hazards such as throw rugs or clutter on the floor, and uneven steps or pathways
- Foot pain or wearing the wrong size or type of shoes
- A shortage of vitamin D in your system
The first step to protecting yourself from falls is to see your doctor. Your primary care physician (PCP) can review your medications, including over-the-counter medications and supplements, and talk with you about other risk factors.
If you have already fallen, or are afraid of falling, be sure and tell your clinician. They can help by:
- checking your level of vitamin D and recommend supplements, if necessary.
- telling you about exercises that can increase your balance and lower body strength.
- changing your medicines or adjust how much you take.
- checking your vision.
There are also steps you or your loved ones can take to make your home safer.
- Remove throw rugs
- Pick up clutter and put appliances, such as vacuum cleaners, away after use
- Install railings on both sides of stairways and grab bars in the bathtub or shower and next to the toilet
- Use brighter light bulbs in lamps and overhead lights.
- Put new lights in dark or shadowy areas
The risk of falling does not have to increase with age. A visit with your doctor and a few simple, low-cost changes to your home can make a difference. Act to reduce your chance of falling today.
Derick Young, M.D. is a family medicine physician and senior medical director with WellMed Medical Management. He is a Beaumont, Texas, native and a graduate of The University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Young completed his medical education and residency with UT Health San Antonio.