It used to be you were told the way to protect yourself against falls was to take calcium to strengthen your bones. And then pretty much just hope for the best.
But that kind of thinking, combined with the fact we’re living longer than ever, has led to a steep jump in more serious and even deadly falls. In fact, between 2007 and 2016 fatal falls skyrocketed by 31 percent.
And if you’re not doing something to reduce your own risk, you could be the next victim.
Reduce your falling risk with these 5 tricks
Around one in three adults 65 or older will fall at least once a year, according to researchers. But together we can help make sure that doesn’t happen to you.
Because there are changes you can make, starting now, that can help keep you solidly on your feet for many years to come. In fact, experts say one of them alone could slash your risk of falling by up 39 percent.
Keep reading to discover how to “fall-proof” yourself in your retirement years.
1. Ditch the couch:
It turns out you can take a HUGE bite off your fall risk simply by staying active. In fact, according to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force when you trade time on the couch for activities that keep you moving you can slice 10 to 20 percent off your fall risk.
And being active doesn’t just mean formal exercise alone. It can also mean everything from gardening to volunteering at your church bake sale. The idea is to just keep moving and avoid being sedentary which ultimately leads to weakening muscles.
Move beyond simply being active to three or more hours of exercise a week and you can reduce your fall risk by a stunning 39 percent.
And remember, regular exercise doesn’t mean you have to spend all your time at the gym. There are all kinds of fun ways to fit your exercise in including…
- square dancing
- fitness classes
- brisk walking
- golfing (without the cart)
- deep cleaning the house
- resistance bands
- bike riding
Pick out activities that you love to do and you’ll never get bored. Just make sure that to keep some strength and resistance training in the mix to build up your muscle strength.
And as a bonus, research shows you’ll live longer too. Fitting in just two exercise sessions a week could increase your longevity by 15 years, according to one study.
3. Focus on better balance:
According to aging experts between the ages of 50 and 70, most folks lose 30 percent of the muscle power they had when they were younger. And those weakening muscles can cause you to become unsteady on your feet leading to falls.
The good news is there’s plenty of research to show that muscle loss isn’t inevitable. You can fight it AND rebuild what you’ve lost with the strength and resistance training I mentioned earlier.
In one study, folks who kept up their training for 18 to 20 weeks improved their overall muscle strength by 25 to 30 percent. Using resistance bands, doing squats (using a chair for balance), doing modified pushups, tai chi, and yoga all count.
As you rebuild your lost muscle strength, you will find your balance automatically begins to improve as well. You can help it along by focusing on moves to improve your balance. Try heel to toe walking and balancing on one foot, for example.
And keep in mind certain medications can make you feel off balance or dizzy too. So make an appointment with your doc to go over the drugs you’re taking and to find out if any have links to an increased risk of falling.
4. Set your sights on vision:
When’s the last time you got your eyesight checked? If it’s been well over a year you could be sending your risk of falling skyrocketing. Poor vision or an inaccurate prescription can make seeing your feet and obstacles in your way challenging.
And if you typically wear bifocal or multifocal lenses, it might be time to reconsider your eyewear. Ask your doctor about getting a single vision pair to use when you’re out and about.
Bi and multifocal glasses make it more difficult to see the space around your feet. Which means a cord on the floor or a crack in the sidewalk can easily cause a tumble. One study found making the switch to single vision glasses slashed falls among active seniors by 40 percent.
5. Use your cane or walker properly:
If you use a cane or walker to help you get around make sure you’re using it correctly. When you do, it can help you stay balanced and reduce your risk of falling.
You should always use your cane on your stronger side. So, for example, if you have a bad right knee use your cane in your left hand.
Adjust the height so that it hits around wrist level. And make sure to replace the rubber tip regularly. If you’re using a walker, make sure to get instructions on how to use it properly from your doctor or a physical therapist.
Don’t let a fall force you to put your life on hold, or worse. Start “fall-proofing” yourself beginning today.
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