Falls Shatter Lives After 60: A Geriatrician Shares How to Stay Safe
There’s nothing quite as embarrassing as falling ungracefully to the ground. It’s one of the signs of aging that we’d like to ignore and deny but there is hope. Please join us in conversation with Dr. Leslie Kernisan, a geriatrician who shares tips on maintaining balance as we age. Enjoy the show!
Balance and the potential of falling are two great concerns for women over the age of 60. And once you have fallen, you are twice as likely to fall again.
Are You at Risk for a Fall?
If you have never fallen and never feel unsteady on your feet, then exercises like Yoga and Thai Chi that will strengthen your legs and improve your balance are wonderful preventative measures to take.
However, if you have experienced a fall, there are a few steps you should take.
First, you should speak to your doctor about the medications you are taking. Second, you should work on building up your leg strength. And third, you should have your vision checked.
Ask for a Review of Your Medications
It is not uncommon for medications to make patients slightly off-balance, even if they seem to feel fine. Sedatives and sleeping aids may feel like they have worn off by morning, but they can still affect your balance the next day.
Anti-depressants and anti-cholinergics can also have this effect.
Sometimes medication can be changed, dropped, or adjusted to a better dosage to improve balance and decrease your risk of falls. It’s important to ask your doctor to review your list of medications to see if there’s a chance this is the reason for the fall you’ve experienced.
Doctors are usually incredibly busy and may not always be aware of the side effects of some medications so it’s important to be pro-active and do your homework before you make your appointment. Dr. Kernisan has a list of medications that may contribute to falls along with other great resources and checklists on her website. Print these off and bring them with you to your appointment to review with your doctor.
Focus on Exercise
The next best thing you can do for yourself is to focus on exercise. Building strength, endurance, flexibility, and balance is an excellent way to prevent falls. Building lower leg strength and balance are particularly important.
A program called Otaga was created by a physical therapist and it focuses on assessing a patient’s ability to balance well and then creating exercises that will improve their balance over time. It is important to participate in exercises that are specifically designed to help you improve your balance while building strength in your lower legs to prevent falls.
Understanding Your Risk of a Fall
Dr. Kernisan knows a great deal of information on preventing falls in aging adults. She also suggests having your bone density tested, practicing balance exercises, checking your blood pressure and medications, and staying hydrated.
Knowing your bone density can be extremely helpful, not in preventing falls but in preventing the damage caused by a fall. If your bone density is low there are things you can do to increase it so that if you should fall, you possibly can do so without breaking a bone, decreasing the time and pain level of your recovery.
Have you ever fallen? Did you tell your doctor or a family member? Have you ever had your balance or bone density tested? Do you do any exercises to increase balance and lower leg strength? Join in the conversation!