How to avoid fear of falling

Published: Sep. 17, 2021 at 7:14 AM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - For the young, falling is usually not a big deal. But as we age, a simple fall can not only endanger your health, it can rob you of your independence and could even cut short your life.

Statistics say one in four people over age 65 will fall this year, resulting in three million visits to the emergency department. 850,000 of those will end up in the hospital, and 29,000 will die. But falls are usually preventable.

Barb Fleming knows all about falls.

“Every once in a while I trip over a hose or not paying attention, and I greet the ground,” she said. 

Fleming added it’s a surprise every time, “Like, what am I doing down here?” And that it’s sometimes hard to believe she used to be a coordinated physical education teacher.

To avoid a potentially life-altering fall, Fleming visits chiropractor Dr. Greg Rummel regularly for help in maintaining her balance, which at 77 can be a challenge for a variety of reasons.

“People don’t have their balance and that can come from painful joints or things that aren’t working correctly, and that can be from a knee to a hip, to an ankle or even the low back,” said Rummel.

Rummel says when people have less pain, they use better body mechanics, and they move more, which keeps their muscles, joints and ligaments in better working order.

On this day, he adjusts Fleming’s hip for better alignment. But eyes and ears are also involved in balance. Our bodies want to keep our eyes level with the horizon.

“So, if you’re walking and you’re starting to tilt, your body is going to do a corrective mechanism,” Rummel added.

No matter what initially threw you off, if you can’t adjust quickly enough, you fall. The National Council on Aging publishes a list of questions to ask yourself, that can help you assess your fall risk.

  1. Have you fallen once? If you have, you’re likely to fall again.
  2. 2. Do you need to hold onto things while you’re walking? It can be a sign that you feel unsteady, indicating a balance problem.
  3. Do you use your hands to push up when getting up? This can be a sign of weak leg muscles, which puts you at risk.
  4. Do you have trouble stepping up onto curbs unassisted?
  5. Have you lost feeling in your feet? If you don’t know where your feet are, it’s easy to have them suddenly go out from under you.
  6. Are you taking medications that make your light-headed or tired? If you recognize any of these things, consider being evaluated to assess your fall risk.

In the meantime, Rummel said you should:

  1. Keep moving so that your muscles maintain their strength.
  2. Wear sensible shoes for the activity you’re doing.
  3. Light up your living space and keep your pathways clear.
  4. And if you need them, use assistive devices.

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