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Lower Your Risk of Falling

older woman exercising

The Basics

You can make small changes to help prevent falls. More than 1 in 3 older adults will fall each year. Falling can lead to broken bones, trouble getting around, and other health problems, especially if you are over age 64.

A fracture (broken bone) can cause pain and disability. It can also make it hard to do everyday activities, like cooking a meal, without help. Hip fractures are a major cause of health problems and death among older adults.

You don’t have to be afraid of falling. Take these steps to prevent falls:

  • Exercise to improve your balance and leg strength.
  • Ask your doctor to review your medicines. Some medicines can make you dizzy or sleepy.
  • Have your vision checked at least every 1 to 2 years. Update your glasses or contact lenses when your vision changes.
  • Make your home safer by fixing possible dangers. For example, add stair railings and move cords you could trip over.

Am I at risk?
As people age, poor balance and weak muscles can lead to falls and fractures. Older adults usually fall during everyday activities, like walking or turning.

Some older adults also have vision problems or other medical conditions that can make a fall more likely. For example, a stroke can affect your balance and make you more likely to fall.

You may be more likely to fall if you:

  • Have fallen in the past year
  • Have a health condition that makes it hard to walk or affects your balance, like diabetes or heart disease
  • Have trouble getting up from a chair or stepping up onto a curb
  • Take medicines to help you relax or sleep

If you are worried about falling, talk to your doctor or nurse about how balance exercises, physical therapy, and vitamin D supplements can help.

Get the facts on falls and fractures.

Take Action!

Many falls can be prevented. Follow these steps to lower your risk of falling.

Get active.
Stay active to feel better, improve your balance, and make your legs stronger.

Improve your balance.
Exercises that improve your balance can help prevent falls. For example, tai chi (“ty chee”) is a Chinese mind-body exercise that involves moving slowly and gently.

Make your legs stronger.
Do strengthening activities at least 2 days a week. These include lifting weights or using resistance bands (long rubber strips that stretch).

Try these strength exercises at home.

Ask your doctor about using medicines safely.
Some medicines can make you sleepy or dizzy and can cause you to fall. Take all of your medicines to a doctor or pharmacist. Ask the doctor or pharmacist if any of your prescription or over-the-counter medicines could increase your risk of falling.

Print this list of other questions to ask your doctor or nurse about preventing falls.

Get your vision checked.
Your vision changes as you get older. Poor vision or the wrong glasses can increase your chances of falling.

If you are age 65 or older, have your eyes checked every 1 to 2 years. Be sure to update your glasses or contact lenses if your vision changes.

Make your home safer.
About half of all falls happen at home. Use this Home Falls Prevention Checklist [PDF - 7 MB] to help you find and fix the dangers in your home.

To help prevent falls at home:

  • Use bright lights throughout your home, especially on the stairs.
  • Always wear non-slip shoes, even inside your home. Don’t walk barefoot or in slippers or socks.
  • Have railings put on both sides of all stairs on the inside and outside of your home.
  • Keep stairs and places you walk clear of clutter.
  • Pick up things you can trip over, like papers, shoes, or books.
  • Remove small rugs or use double-sided tape to keep rugs from slipping.
  • Have grab bars put inside and outside the bathtub or shower and next to your toilet.
  • Use non-slip mats in the bathtub or shower.
  • Keep kitchen items you use often in easy-to-reach cabinets.
  • Stand up slowly after eating, lying down, or sitting.

Get a bone density test.
If you are a woman age 65 or older, get a bone density test to measure how strong your bones are.

Get enough calcium and vitamin D.
Calcium helps keep your bones strong and less likely to break. Vitamin D helps your body take in calcium. Check out this shopping list of foods high in calcium.

Get plenty of sleep.
Getting a good night’s sleep can help you make good decisions and avoid injuries.

Drink alcohol only in moderation.
Alcohol can increase your risk of falling.

Are you worried about a loved one’s risk of falling?
Use these tips to start a conversation about preventing falls.

Learn more about getting a bone density test and getting your vision checked.

Start Today: Small Steps

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Content last updated on: September 27, 2012

National Health Information Center

P.O. Box 1133, Washington, DC 20013-1133