Conquering Fear of Falling
Stop the Drop
Take Charge of Your Physical Condition
Don't accept physical limitations as inevitable with older age.
Increase and manage your mobility by:
- Correcting vision problems: Keep your eyeglass prescription updated with
regular eye exams, and get treatment for cataracts and glaucoma.
- Using drugs cautiously: Alcohol, sedatives, and sleeping pills, and some
cold remedies and antidepressants, can impair your ability to react. Ask your
doctor whether your drugs or drug combinations have these side effects and what
you can do to minimize them.
- Building strength: If your leg muscles are so weak you can't get up from a
chair without using your hands, you're at greater risk of falling. "Weight
training can improve strength at any age," says Michael Rogers, MD,
director of the Center for Physical Activity and Aging at Wichita State
University in Kansas. He knows of two people in one retirement community who
regained sufficient strength and balance to put away their walkers.
- Improving balance and gait: "You should be able to stand on one foot
for 10 seconds," says Rogers. Practice standing on one foot while working
at the sink or, if you feel confident enough, walking along a curb as though
it's a balance beam. Some balance problems, such as inner ear disorders,
require medical attention. But many can be improved by physical therapy, or
through activities such as tai chi or yoga.
Boost Your Bone Strength
"Today we have a nice array of ways to make bones
stronger," says Vandenberg. He recommends:
- Getting enough calcium (1,500 milligrams for women; 1,200 for men) and
vitamin D (800 units) every day.
- Estrogen replacement for most women, based on other health factors. Ask
your doctor about this.
- Weight-bearing exercise.
- Bone-building medication, calcitonin, and bisphosphonates for anyone losing
bone density. Ask your doctor about this one, too.
Clearly, it requires effort to reduce environmental risks and
take charge of your physical condition. But these self-defense strategies give
you a measure of control in lowering your risk for falling and falling