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Balance for Seniors: 600,000+ Seniors Die from Falls Each Year… Don’t Be a Statistic!

By Sixty and Me March 19, 2019 Health and Fitness

“I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” If you’re an older woman who dreads experiencing that TV commercial as a real-life drama, you’re not alone. In today’s video, Dr. Sarah Brewer and Margaret Manning share insights into why losing our balance and falling after 60 is such a problem for us – and tips to prevent it. Read on and don’t forget to watch the video!

“She’s Gone Off Her Legs”

Most of us consider diminishing balance and the increased risk of serious falls over 60 as inevitable. Dr. Brewer explains that the UK medical profession even has a term for it: “She’s gone off her legs.”

And “off your legs” is definitely not somewhere you want to go. It could mean bruising, fractures or a broken hip and a one-way trip to a long-term care facility. If you’re old enough that fear of falling makes you avoid essential tasks like bathing, shopping or even sweeping, however, it’s time to act.

If you’re not there yet, act anyway. Despite what you’ve heard, following Dr. Sarah’s tips now can help you preserve your balance and avoid falling once you reach 60.

Maintain Your Muscular Strength After 60

Picture a stereotypical little old lady struggling to open a jar. Where did her strength go? It disappeared with her muscle mass, thanks to a condition Dr. Sarah identifies as sarcopenia.

Proper exercise and diet, however, can slow or prevent sarcopenia. Eating an adequate amount of quality protein and exercising from 30 to 60 minutes on most days, or a total of 2.5 hours per week, can boost your mass enough to build back your strength.

Try brisk walking, for instance. Dr. Sarah calls it an excellent antidote for sarcopenia and shaky balance. Using a walking stick, or Nordic poles, provides security and takes pressure off of your aching knees while also building arm strength.

Weather not cooperating? Turn your couch or easy chair into a workout bench with leg lifts, arm raises and shoulder stretches. Just get your muscles working and blood pumping!

Monitor Your Blood Pressure

Does rising suddenly from a sitting or lying position make you dizzy enough to fall? Blame low blood pressure. The change can trigger a 20-point drop, according to Dr. Sarah. It’s especially noticeable if you’re in too much of a hurry to get out of bed.

Usually, a few under-the-covers yoga stretches can help ease you into the day. For Dr. Sarah, a great way to start the morning is to sit up slowly, swing your legs to the floor and pause before standing.

For many of us over 60, however, the water pills we take for high blood pressure are a problem. Prescribed to prevent heart attacks or strokes, they unfortunately affect our electrolyte levels. This causes dizziness – and a higher chance of falls!

Track your BP with a home monitor. If it’s low, talk to your doctor about adjusting your meds and balancing your electrolytes. Regular checkups also reveal problems like atrial fibrillation, a heart issue associated with poor balance.

Replenish Your Diminishing Vitamin D

By the time you reach 60, Dr. Sarah says your skin makes only 20 percent of the Vitamin D it did during your 20s. Vitamin D helps control your slow-twitch muscle fibers. They cause the reflexive jerking that helps us recover our balance while falling.

Our bodies manufacture Vitamin D from sunlight, but they don’t get enough of it during cold, dark winters. Dietary sources include eggs and oily fish such as mackerel, herring or salmon. For women over 60, however, supplementing is the best way to ensure adequate Vitamin D intake.

Be Conscious of Your Surroundings

Meditation is one way to help you become aware of fall threats in your surroundings, and it is especially helpful when traveling. No new attraction is worth a bone-jarring tumble to the tarmac!

Or, as many of our mothers chided us so long ago, “Watch where you’re going, dear!”

Dr. Sarah reminds us to be alert for home hazards such as curled-up carpet corners. She also suggests keeping a light on to navigate late-night bathroom runs.

Stand Strong Against Falls

We can’t expect the world to be responsible for keeping us “on our legs.” Falls among older women are a serious problem. It’s up to us to limit our risk by working on balance and strength after 60 and staying aware of what’s around us!

What scares you most about falling? Do you have any special balance- and strength-building techniques? Have you found ways to “fall-proof” your living/working space? We’d love to hear your thoughts, so please join the conversation!

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The Author

Sixty and Me is a community of over 500,000 women over 60 founded by Margaret Manning. Our editorial team publishes articles on lifestyle topics including fashion, dating, retirement and money.

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