Getting regular exercise is a key to preventing falls; the risk of falls as we mature is that it can result in hip and wrist fractures.
Many people, particularly the elderly, suffer hip and wrist pain due to falls. Avoiding such accidents “isn’t simply a matter of being more careful,” according to the New York Times’ Katie Hafner. She reported that experts advise people to adopt exercise regimens, as a way of making them less vulnerable to falling.
“If you’re in better physical condition, you’re less likely to be injured,” said Judy A. Stevens, an epidemiologist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
One option is to sign up for an exercise class that features balancing drills, in which a person stands on one leg; and workouts with Bosu balls. Many have found tai chi effective in promoting better balance. The practice involves making slow movements accompanied by coordinated breathing.
Hafner noted that a nursing home near San Francisco offers a 12-week tai chi program twice a year. The facility reports significant improvement in participants’ mobility, as measured by their ability to get out of chairs without using their arms.
“If only we could put tai chi in a pill,” said Dr. Lewis A. Lipsitz, a professor of medicine at Harvard University who observed programs at two facilities operated by Hebrew SeniorLife.
“Integrating balance and strength work into daily life (standing on one foot while brushing your teeth, for instance, or simply putting one foot in front of the other) can help, as well,” Hafner wrote.
She pointed out that studies have confirmed the power of Vitamin D to improve muscle strength and balance, which lessen the risk of falling. It also is important to stay hydrated to prevent dizziness.
Among those who are most vulnerable to accidents are patients taking multiple medications. Psychotropic drugs such as antidepressants, antipsychotics and benzodiazepines “are most clearly implicated in falls,” according to Hafner.
Dr. Mary Tinetti, a geriatrician at Yale University, told the reporter that antidepressants “can directly affect your balance.”
Medication prescribed to treat high blood pressure also can cause the sort of dizziness that leads to falls. According to a study published by JAMA Internal Medicine, the danger of sustaining serious injuries from falling is much greater for people on hypertension drugs.
That is why Dorothy Baker, a research scientist at the Yale School of Medicine, advises taking reduced doses of such medication, if possible.
Patricia Quigley, a fall-prevention expert at the James A. Haley Veterans Affairs hospital in Tampa, Fla., offered this recommendation: “Instead of taking sleeping pills, drink warm milk, or listen to talking books or soft music.”
Patients on diuretics for high blood pressure or heart failure should take their drugs during the day instead of the evening, to reduce the number of times they need to walk to the bathroom during the night, Quigley said.
Homes can be made safer by removing trip hazards from floors and stairways. Loose rugs are a common cause of falls. Good vision also is important. People need to learn how to properly use bifocals, as studies have shown they can cause missteps, Hafner noted.
Tinetti told the Times it can be counterproductive to be overly careful when walking.
“People who are more cautious cut down on their activity, which makes their balance worse, their strength worse, and reflexes that prevent falls worse,” she said.
If you have progressive weakness or balance problems contact our specialists at Orthopedic Surgery San Diego to schedule an appointment.