Spring into Action! 7 Steps to Take Now to Reduce Your Risk of Falls

Mature couple stretchingBy Cheri Hinshelwood

Are these balance issues preventing you from enjoying spring?

• Unsteady gait
• Inability to stand from a seated position without pushing up on furniture
• Walking around the house holding onto furniture
• Using a cart at the store to steady yourself
• Becoming inactive or deconditioned
• Using shower chairs, canes or walkers
• Not having the strength to get up from toileting
• Avoiding going places

When daffodils open and signal a new season, many feel the urge to spring into action. From cleaning our homes and yards to adopting new exercise habits, spring is the perfect time to take action to reduce your fall risks.

Every year, falls result in more than 2.8 million injuries treated in emergency departments. “Preventing falls really starts with bone health,” said Kirstin Webster, APRN, FNP-BC, an advanced practice registered nurse at Mission Orthopedic Trauma. “More often than people realize, a bone fracture actually causes the fall, rather than the other way around.”

Check out these top 7 tips for preventing falls:
1. Watch for bone-health warning signs. Having multiple fractures is an indication of questionable bone health. “Your bones could be sick, and you may not know it,” said Webster. Bone density screenings should start at age 50.

2. Build balance. Exercises like Tai Chi are proven to improve balance, thereby reducing falls. Core-building exercises also build the strength needed to catch yourself before you fall.

3. Conduct a home evaluation. Eliminate tripping hazards such as area rugs, clutter or uneven surfaces. Also, remove unnecessary items from steps or porches to avoid fall hazards.

4. Light the way. Add nightlights throughout your home, especially near bathrooms and stairs.

5. Add handrails. This helps keeping balanced near bathtubs, stairs and around decks for added protection.

6. Improve hazard awareness. Wherever you go, look for curbs, unexpected steps, slick surfaces due to water, ice and other seasonal happenings, like falling leaves that could result in a slip or fall.

7. Health checks. Ask if your prescriptions cause dizziness, get an annual eye exam and be aware of other conditions like Parkinson’s that affect balance.

“Take fractures seriously. Bones are designed to absorb energy, not to break,” said Webster. “Eat a colorful diet for proper nutrition, and focus on balance and resistance training.”

Kirstin Webster, APRN, FNPBC, is an advanced practice registered nurse at Mission Orthopedic Trauma.

Sprains, strains, fractures and arthritis? Learn more about what Mission Health Orthopedics can do for you at missionhealth.org/ortho [1].