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Senior Health Spotlight: Fall Prevention Guide

Falls are the leading cause of injuries and injury deaths among older adults in Tennessee, yet few people understand why. But there are simple steps older adults can take to prevent them.

Why are falls so dangerous?

A fall can often trigger other problems, even for otherwise healthy older adults.

Falls can:

  • Cause broken bones, commonly hip fractures
  • Cause traumatic brain injury
  • Create the conditions for other chronic diseases (illnesses that might not have been present before the fall) to emerge
  • Decrease a person’s quality of life
  • Make it more difficult to continue living independently

People who fall are 2-3 times more likely to fall again, and the likelihood of injury or death increases with each fall.

What causes a fall?

There are many factors that contribute to a fall, but for most people, it’s a combination of things:

  • People experience a deterioration of eyesight, hearing and reflexes as they age
  • Diabetes, heart disease, or circulation problems can affect balance
  • Medicines cause dizziness, drowsiness or confusion
  • Muscles become weaker, leading to problems with balance and gait
  • Blood pressure swings out of control when sitting or standing and leads to instability
  • Confusion results from mental illness or aging

How can older adults reduce their risk of falling?

Older adults can take simple steps to prevent a fall.

Wear safe shoes

Backless shoes and high heels increase a person’s risk of falling. Wear non-skid, rubber-soled, or lace-up shoes that support your feet. Don’t walk on slick floors in socks.

Stay active

Exercise builds strength that can help you control your movements. It also helps keep joints and tendons flexible.

Know your medications

Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of drugs, and tell them if a particular medication makes you sleepy or dizzy.

Get enough sleep

The less alert you are, the more likely you are to fall.

Limit alcohol

Even a small amount can affect your balance and reflexes.

Stand up slowly

Getting up too quickly can cause your blood pressure to drop, making you feel wobbly.

Consider taking vitamin D

A vitamin D deficiency in older people can aggravate the aging process, reduce mobility and increase the effects of osteoporosis. Ask your doctor if you should add a vitamin D supplement to your diet.

Fall-proof your home

Make your home safer by moving or removing hazards like stray cords, rugs with edges that curl up or hoses outside the house.

Prepare for ice

While we don’t always get snow in Tennessee, roads and sidewalks often get icy in winter. Have sand or salt on hand to prevent or treat icy areas, and avoid them altogether if possible.

When in doubt, wait

If you feel confused, especially when waking up, wait for your mind to clear before trying to get up and walk around.

Get your vision checked

Many falls are a result of poor vision that can be corrected.

Talk to your doctor

Always tell your doctor if you have fallen, even if you aren’t hurt. A fall can alert a doctor to problems with medication or eyesight that can be corrected. Although 1 in 4 older Americans falls each year, less than half tell their doctor.

For more articles on senior health, click here.

Ashley Brantley

Ashley Brantley has been writing about food, culture and health for more than a decade, and has lived in three of Tennessee’s four major cities (Memphis, Nashville and Knoxville).

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Get more information about specific health terms, topics and conditions to better manage your health on bcbst.com. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee members can access wellness-related discounts on fitness products, gym memberships, healthy eating and more through Blue365®. BCBST members can also find tools and resources to help improve health and well-being by logging into BlueAccess and going to the Managing Your Health tab.

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WellTuned does not offer medical advice. Any personal health questions should be addressed to your doctor.

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