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December 2018

Take Steps to Prevent Falls

Falling isn’t just a matter of bruised pride. One in five falls causes serious harm, such as a broken bone or head injury. Such injuries may make it difficult to do everyday activities, get around, or stay independent.

Hand gripping stairway banister

Sometimes, the cost is even higher. Falls are the number one cause of injury-related deaths in older adults.

Several things increase your risk of sustaining a fall injury as you get older, including:

  • Lower-body weakness, often related to lack of physical activity

  • Poor vision, often due to conditions such as cataracts and glaucoma

  • Hearing loss, which research has linked to a higher risk of falling

  • Osteoporosis, which makes it more likely you’ll break a bone if you fall

The good news is that many falls are preventable. Here’s how to avoid a nasty spill.

Fall-proof your home

Most falls happen at home, so the first step is to give your house a safety makeover. These tips can help prevent slips, trips, and tumbles:

  • Improve the lighting. Older eyes often require brighter lights to see clearly.

  • Remove throw rugs. Or fasten them securely to the floor with double-sided tape.

  • Keep stairs free of clutter. Stairways should have secure handrails and good lighting.

  • Install grab bars in the bathroom. Place a nonskid mat in your tub or shower.

Work with your doctor

Fewer than half of older adults who fall each year tell their doctors. Don’t make that mistake. Let your doctor know if you fall or feel unsteady. Your doctor can assess your risk, discuss fall prevention, and treat underlying conditions. This helps you stay more active and independent as you age.

Falling unexpectedly is sometimes a sign of a new health issue, such as a heart problem or foot disorder. Telling your doctor about the fall could lead to earlier diagnosis and treatment.

These are some questions you may want to ask your doctor:

  • Would exercise or physical therapy be good for my strength and balance?

  • Do I need to get my vision and hearing checked?

  • Would a cane or walker be helpful for me?

Falling head over heels is only good for romance. The rest of the time, the strategies mentioned in this article help you stay safely on your feet.

Rx fall prevention

Some medicines have side effects that increase your risk of falling. These are a few examples.

Type of medicine

Common uses

Fall-related side effects


Depression, insomnia, pain



Anxiety, insomnia

Dizziness, drowsiness

Blood-pressure lowering medicines

High blood pressure


Muscle relaxants

Low back pain, muscle spasms



Moderate to severe pain

Dizziness, drowsiness

Sleeping pills


Excessive sleepiness, balance problems

Talk with your doctor if you take one of these medicines and experience side effects. Sometimes, an adjustment in dose or change of medicine makes all the difference.

Online Medical Reviewer: McDonough, Brian, MD
Date Last Reviewed: 6/7/2018
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