Features September 2018 Issue

How to Prevent Falling

Certain factors can increase risk for falling. Exercise and common sense measures can keep you upright.

The first day of the fall season (Sept. 22) has been designated Fall Prevention Awareness Day by the National Council on Aging. But preventing falls must be a year-round activity, especially for those at high risk.

“Falling is not a normal part of aging,” says Cleveland Clinic physical therapist Christina Bebb, DPT. But it is normal to experience changes with age that make falling more likely. Muscles get weaker, balance is not as good, and reaction time slows down. When you were younger and stumbled, your body could probably more easily sense the sudden imbalance, make an adjustment, and right itself. Nonetheless, people of all ages fall

Who’s at Risk?

In addition to aging, other factors can put you at higher risk for falling. Having fallen in the past raises the chances that you might fall again, especially if the fall resulted in an injury. Feeling unsteady when you walk or needing to hang onto something, such as furniture or the walls, makes you more likely to fall. “People come to rely on that support, which can change the way they walk,” says Bebb. They may lean forward or have a change of posture that can increase fall risk.

Certain medical conditions can contribute to fall risk, including Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, stroke, loss of sensation in the feet (such as in diabetic neuropathy), ankle and foot problems, knee arthritis and vision problems. Medications that make you sleepy, affect your mood or cause changes in blood pressure can also increase the chances of falling

“Some risk factors can’t be changed, so I tell people to focus on the things they can change,” says Bebb. “If you don’t address them, it can get worse. But if you do, it can improve and you really can lower your risk for falling.”

Benefits of Exercise


Alayna Paquette

Balance Exercise: Stand with your feet side by side, which narrows your base of support. If thatís easy, stand with one foot in front of the other, heel to toe. Then try standing on one leg. Use two hands for support, then try it with one hand, then a fingertip, and finally no support.

In April 2018, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force published recommendations for the prevention of falling among older adults based on a review of scientific studies. The evidence was strongest for exercise

Bebb recommends a comprehensive program that combines exercises for balance, strength and flexibility. “My main recommendation is to do something you enjoy,” she says. If you like exercising with a group, find a class. Tai chi, yoga and pool exercises are all beneficial for balance. The fitness program Silver Sneakers (www.silversneakers.com) offers free classes across the country for people age 65 and older on Medicare

“With balance exercises, it shouldn’t be so easy that it’s a piece of cake, and it shouldn’t be so hard that you’re falling over,” says Bebb. Start with something easy.

Ideally, balance exercise should be done every day. “You’re better off doing them for a shorter duration more often,” says Bebb. “Every day for five minutes can be better than twice a week for 20 minutes.” Combine it with something you do every day, like brushing your teeth. Bebb also advises staying as active as possible.

Comments (2)

I have fibro, rheumatoid and osteo arthritis. I will be 80hrs old in couple of weeks. Suffered for years. Been under excellent care from Cleveland Clinic. I feel for myself, under their prescribed treatments, the most important things I need to do, is set boundaries with all who keep after me to join their activities at their chosen times of the day. Having learned to say No Thank You, pleasantly but firmly, I have control. I have learned to do most of my household movements to coincide with physical therapy exercises taught to me at CC. As far as sleep goes, I am sti!l trying to live with myself allowing myself to sleep 8 to 9 hours at night with having had history of raising a large family and working 12 hour shifts as an empty nested Registered Nurse. Each day has it's own level of strength in my muscles. I
have labeled them my 5 Up, 5 down days on a high pain and high exhaustion, or a 10 to 60
to 120 min days accordingly, up and down on better days. Mrs. Jessica Hill P.A.under under Dr. Abraham prescribed medicine for me that thank my dear Lord is giving more strength and less pain. I keep my glass full of my faith in God and mentally, daily fill my
mind with heavenly or soft nature inspired music videos. I limit my TV, I try to walk my dog often. Don't give up! Pray to the Lord for strength to endure with His help. Follow medical advice and encorporate it in daily life. Follow Arthritis Education on activities and diet
advice. Above all, don't ever give up or feel guilty on what you can't do. Feel proud of what you can do. AND KEEP MOVING!!! Lois from Elyria.

Posted by: KeepingMoving | September 2, 2018 1:48 PM    Report this comment

I would like to see more information on balance exercises as well as other means to improve balance.

Posted by: ansgar | September 1, 2018 11:28 AM    Report this comment

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