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How to reduce your risk of falling

Two women holding hands

There are a number of different ways you can help reduce your risk of having a fall.  You can look after your health and wellbeing, make simple changes in and around your home and do gentle exercises to improve your strength and balance. 

It’s important to note that some health conditions and medications could potentially affect your stability, making you more likely to fall.  This is why regular check-ups are essential.

Stay active

As we get older, our muscle strength and balance reduces, which can lead to a fall.  There are different exercises you can do, which are designed to improve muscle strength, balance, posture and co-ordination, to help you reduce the risk of having a fall.  Take a look at the simple exercises you can try on our staying active page.

Eat well and stay hydrated

It’s important to keep an eye on your appetite and try to ensure you eat well.  It's always better to eat something, even if it's just regular small snacks throughout the day, instead of three main meals.  The food you eat will give you more energy, which you need to keep up your strength and reduce your chance of falling.

Alongside eating well, you should also be drinking plenty of fluids.  If you don’t drink enough, it’s likely that you’ll start to feel light-headed, which will increase your risk of a fall.  It sounds like a lot, but try to drink about six to eight glasses of water a day.

Look after your bones

As you age, your bones naturally become weaker and more brittle, which makes it more likely you will suffer a fracture, if you fall.  It’s important to try and keep your bones healthy and strong by eating calcium-rich foods (including milk, cheese, curly kale, okra and sardines), getting enough vitamin D from sunlight (particularly between April and September) and doing some weight-bearing exercises (take a look at our staying active page).

Incontinence problems

It is estimated that approximately 3 to 6 million people aged over 60 in the UK, have a urinary incontinence problem, which means you’re more likely to need to rush to the toilet, especially at night.  This can increase your risk of having a fall, so it’s worth talking to your GP, to see if there’s any exercises or medication you can try, to help improve your incontinence.

Review your medication

If you are taking medication for a health condition, it’s important to remember that some medication can make you feel faint or dizzy and affect your balance.  Let your GP know if you experience any side effects after taking your medication, so they can check the dose or look at alternative options.

Take care of your eyes and ears

As you get older, you may notice that your eyesight changes and you have more problems with your vision, such as it’s harder to gauge depth perception or see the edge of steps and kerbs.  This can affect your balance and co-ordination, which will increase your risk of falling, so it’s important to get your eyes checked every year or certainly at least every two years.  Don’t forget your optician is also checking for conditions like glaucoma, cataracts and macular degeneration.

It’s also likely that your hearing will deteriorate as you get older, which again can have an impact on your balance.  If you think you have a problem with your hearing, talk to your GP, as it might be something which is easily treated, such as a build-up of ear wax, an ear infection or you may need a hearing aid.

Drink less alcohol

As you get older, your body doesn’t process alcohol in the same way it did when you were younger, which means you’re more likely to experience unsteadiness when you drink, which increases your risk of falling.

Top tips!

Wear well fitted shoes

  • As you get older, you’ll probably notice that your feet have changed shape and you’ve lost some feeling and flexibility, which is why it’s so important to buy and wear correctly fitted shoes (not your favourite pair from 20 years ago!).

  • Your shoes should be long enough, so your toes don’t touch the end (round or square toed styles offer more room) and they should provide sufficient support around the middle part of your foot.

  • The soles should be thin enough so you can feel the ground beneath your feet, but cushioned for shock absorption with a good tread.

  • Try to avoid slip on shoes and go for ones with fastenings, such as laces, as they’ll give you extra support.  If you’re buying heeled shoes, try to make sure the heels are low and broad, as this will give you extra stability.

  • Remember: Don’t buy shoes in the morning, as they’re likely to feel tighter in the afternoon, after your feet have swollen a bit.


Say goodbye to worn out slippers

  • We know you get used to your comfortable, old slippers and it can be hard to throw them away, but if they have holes in their soles, they’re too loose or frayed, it’s time to buy a new pair.  Your slippers should fasten, so they stay on properly, and have a good grip.

  • Remember: Don’t walk on hard, slippery floors in just your socks or tights, that’s what your new slippers are for!


Try not to shuffle when you walk!

  • It’s easy to get into the habit of not lifting your feet as high as you need to when you walk, but this will increase your chance of catching your feet and tripping.  There are exercises available, to help improve your posture, strength and balance, take a look at our staying active page.

 

Look after your feet

  • If you have sore, tingling or swollen feet, which is making it harder for you to safely get around, make an appointment to see your GP, as they might be able to help.

  • Make sure you regularly trim your toe tails (only cut straight across) and keep your feet moisturised to help prevent painful cracking.  If you have hard skin, try using a pumice stone.

  • Remember: If looking after your own feet is difficult, don’t just ignore them, make an appointment to see a podiatrist instead.


Secure any loose clothing

  • Make sure your clothes don’t have any loose hems or hanging tie cords, which you could accidently trip over.  It only takes a few moments to securely fasten your belt or tie your dressing gown cord.