Preventing Falls: Make Your Health a Priority

Nurse checking blood pressure of mature male patient.

Having a health problem can make you more likely to fall. Taking certain kinds of medicines may also increase your risk of falls. So, improving your health can help you avoid a fall. Work with your healthcare provider to manage health problems and to review your medicines.

How chronic conditions increase your fall risk

Health problems like diabetes, high or low blood pressure, and arthritis are called chronic health conditions. They can be managed, but they don't go away. They may cause problems with movement, balance, or vision. And certain medicines you take for them may have side effects, such as dizziness or drowsiness. These side effects also increase your risk.

Work with your healthcare provider

Your healthcare provider can work with you to help prevent a fall. See your healthcare provider for a medical exam each year. Go more often if you have symptoms, such as leg numbness or dizziness, that could raise your risk of falling. If you have a history of falls, let your provider know. Bring a list of your medicines to review with your healthcare provider. Discuss your nutrition and exercise routine. And ask whether you need any tests to assess your risk of falling.

Review your medicines

Medicines (even ones you buy over the counter) can cause side effects that lead to a fall. Common medicines that cause these kinds of side effects are blood pressure, heart, or pain medicines, medicines for sleep, and antidepressants. Store pain medicine in a secure area, such as an upper cabinet in your kitchen or bathroom. Don't mix different pills in the same bottle. Always store and travel with medicines in their original containers with clear labels. This will reduce the chance of taking the wrong medicine or too much of a medicine. Taking too much of a medicine or taking the wrong medicine may cause side effects that can increase your risk of falling.

Also, the way your body reacts to medicines can change as you age. So, certain medicines that were fine in the past may cause side effects now. Your healthcare provider (such as your doctor or pharmacist) can help review your medicines and make changes if needed.

Get your eyes and ears checked

Problems with vision or hearing can lead to falls:

  • Get your eyes checked at least once a year. Take time to adjust to new glasses.

  • Get your hearing checked at least every other year.

  • Have your doctor check your inner ear for problems that may affect your balance.

Get the right nutrition

If you don't get enough to eat or drink, you can become dizzy and fall:

  • Your sense of thirst decreases with age. Drink water throughout the day.

  • Eat breakfast. Plan regular meals.

  • Ask your healthcare provider whether you need supplements. These can help strengthen your bones and muscles to help prevent falls. They can also help prevent fractures if you do fall.

Stay as active as you can

Staying active is one of the best things you can do to prevent falls. Keep in mind that doing too little can be as risky as doing too much. That's because not being active can make you weaker and more likely to fall. Balance, flexibility, strength, and endurance all come from exercise. They all play a role in preventing falls. Ask your healthcare provider which types of activity are right for you.

When to call your healthcare provider

Be sure to call your healthcare provider if you fall. Also call if you have any of these signs or symptoms (someone else may need to point them out to you):

  • Feeling lightheaded or dizzy more than once a day

  • Losing your balance often or feeling unsteady on your feet

  • Feeling numbness in your legs or feet, or noticing a change in the way you walk

  • Having a steady decline in your memory or mental sharpness