It’s a cold and snowy morning here today. It looks beautiful but can wreak havoc on your health for several reasons.
A few weeks ago we discussed the perils of snow shoveling which can increase your risk for sprain/strain of your muscles and joints (especially those in your back) and it can also increase your risk for a cardiovascular event.
Slips and falls are also more likely in the snowy slippery conditions, which can, in some cases, cause quite serious injuries.
This is especially relevant for older adults and seniors who have a higher risk of falling, not just outside in the snow but around the house as well.
One in every three North Americans over the age of 65 will fall at least one time per year, often with serious consequences such as fractures of the wrist, hip, or pelvis. Falls can even cause death in some cases.
The CDC reports that among adults age 65 and older, falls are the leading cause of injury death. They are also the most common cause of nonfatal injuries and hospital admissions for trauma.
Many of these falls happen in and around the house while performing regular chores or just travelling from room to room and the majority of them are preventable.
Independence is something that we all value; this is especially true as we get older. Certain health concerns that may come up as a result of a fall, can begin to limit a person’s activities and independence. The Canadian Chiropractic Association promotes a public education campaign every year entitled ‘Best Foot Forward’. It addresses the issue of debilitating falls among older Canadians and you will find much of the information from that campaign in the following tips that will help to protect that independence for older adults by reducing the risk of slips and falls.
There are 2 main factors that contribute to a fall:
1) Your Environment
2) Your Physical Health
Since most trips, slips and falls happen in and around the house, there are a few easy things that you can do to help to make your environment safer:
• Reduce clutter and loose rugs/carpets
• Have a clear path from the bedroom to the bathroom. Place nightlights along the way to guide you.
• Ensure easy transfers in and out of the shower or tub
• Wear supportive, non-slip footwear
• Always sit down when putting on or taking off shoes and clothing.
• Have railings on both sides of stairways both in and outside the house
• Never climb on a chair or a stool to reach for something. Always ask for assistance
• Keep everyday items on shelves within easy reach
• Don’t rush to answer the phone. It’s there for your convenience and if you miss a call, you can always call them back.
• If you have pets make sure they wear a bell and/or a reflective collar and make a mental note of checking where they are before you move. It’s easy to stumble across an affectionate or sleeping pet that is in your path.
• Make sure there is a bucket of salt or sand near the doorway outside in the winter to safely handle slippery conditions.
Remember that you can control many of the risks in your environment by making choices that will reduce your risk of falling and protect your independence.
Your Physical Health
You can reduce health risks that may put you in danger of the likelihood of a fall. Tripping, slipping and falling can occur if you are on certain medications that affect your alertness, judgment or co-ordination. The health of your eyes and ears can affect whether you see or hear a hazard that may make you more likely to fall. Here are some things to consider about your health when you are taking steps to prevent a fall:
• Talk to your MD or pharmacist about any prescription medications, over-the-counter products, or supplements you may be taking. Many products can interact with each other and potentially cause dizziness, weakness or other side effects that may increase your risk of falling.
• Your eyesight and hearing alert you to hazards such as clutter in the way or a pet running toward you. Have your eyes and ears tested every one or two years. Remove your reading glasses when you are walking. Always slip them off before you take a step. Wear your hearing aid if you need one.
• Make sure to eat well and regularly so as not to have dizziness or weakness that may lead to a trip or fall.
• Get your feet checked and wear comfortable supportive shoes. Many foot problems such as bunions, callouses, ingrown toenails or plantar warts may contribute to unsteadiness.
• If you have health conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, or low blood sugar, you may be more likely to having episodes of fainting or dizziness. Talk to your health care provider to get advice to best manage these conditions.
• As we get older, we lose lean muscle mass every year. With each passing year, the loss of muscle leads to more weakness and unsteadiness. Getting your body moving and being more active will help you to maintain strength and balance to decrease your chances of having a fall. 20 minutes 3 times per week is all it takes to help improve your balance and strength. It’s never to late to get stronger or to be more active.
• Consume alcohol in moderation. Your sight, hearing, balance and judgment are all affected by intake of alcohol which can lead to a fall.
Your physical health definitely plays a role in increasing or decreasing your risk for a slip, trip or fall. Do what you can to start practicing healthy habits that will lower your likelihood of a fall.
Remember that you have control over increasing your knowledge and awareness of what is around you in your environment and the state of your health. You can help yourself to prevent a fall.
For more information on Best Foot Forward visit: http://www.chiropractic.on.ca/
Dr. Peggy Malone is a Chiropractor and an Athlete who helps other athletes to overcome injury and get back to their sport. She also inspires patients from all walks of life to take control of their health to be as happy and as healthy as they can be.
A former varsity Basketball and Rugby player, she has since entered the world of endurance athletics where she has completed 2 Ironman Triathlons, 3 Marathons, several Half Marathons and many other Triathlons, Road Races and Off-Road Adventure races of varying distances.
Her own athletic endeavors and injuries have given her valuable insight into working with athletes in her practice for both the care of injuries as well as for the improvement of athletic performance.