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What causes falls?

Falls are more likely when a person is weak, tired, or sick; isn't physically fit; or has problems seeing. Medicines such as blood pressure pills, heart medicines, water pills, muscle relaxants, and sleeping pills can cause falls by making you feel weak, sleepy, confused, or dizzy.


Hazards such as slippery or wet floors or stairs, obstructed pathways, and poor lighting can also increase the risk for falls.


Why are falls dangerous?

People who fall can suffer serious injuries such as cuts, fractures of the hip and other bones, and head trauma. These injuries can make it hard to get around and may prevent you from living independently. Falls are the most common cause of brain injuries, which can be life-threatening.


What increases my risk for falls?

The risk of falling increases as you get older. You may be at an increased risk if you have certain health problems, including osteoporosis or trouble walking, an irregular heartbeat, changes in blood pressure, depression, Alzheimer disease, arthritis, bladder problems, vision or hearing loss, or cancer that affects your bones. You're also at a higher risk if you've had a stroke or been diagnosed with Parkinson disease or multiple sclerosis. Drinking alcohol can also increase your risk of falling.


How can I prevent falls?


* Exercise regularly. Exercises that focus on increasing leg strength and improving balance are especially helpful. Your healthcare provider can help create an exercise program that's right for you.


* Have your eyes checked. Glaucoma and cataracts can impair your vision and increase your chances of falling. Visit an eye doctor to see if you need medicine, eye-glasses, or a new eyeglass prescription.


* Talk to your healthcare provider about the medicines you're taking. If they make you sleepy, drowsy, or confused, your healthcare provider may change your medicine to reduce the side effects.


* Avoid alcoholic beverages. Drinking alcohol can lead to a fall by slowing reflexes, making you dizzy or sleepy, altering your balance, and causing you to take risks that can lead to falls.


* Wear shoes that have firm, flat, nonslip soles. Avoid high heels and shoes with smooth, slick soles. Don't wear shoes without backs (clogs, flip-flops, slippers). Always tie your shoes and never walk in your stocking feet.


* Make sure your home is properly lighted. Turn on the lights when you enter a room. Install timers or motion sensors and use night-lights in the bedroom, bathroom, and hallways so you don't have to walk in the dark. Keep flashlights handy in case of power failure.


* Keep floors clear and safe. Pick up books, tools, papers, shoes, or clothing on the floor so you don't trip. Clean up any spills immediately. Move low-rise coffee tables, magazine racks, footrests, and plants out of pathways. Don't run appliance, telephone, and extension cords across pathways. Remove small area and throw rugs that can slip or wrinkle and replace them with rubber floor mats. Put nonslip treads on stairs and repair loose wooden floorboards right away.


* Fall-proof your bathroom. Many people fall in the bathroom. Make your bathroom safer by applying nonslip decals in the bathtub or using a nonslip mat. Install grab bars near the toilet and bathtub or shower.