Many risk factors are controllable. Below are risk factors for falls and ways to reduce each risk.
Risk: Balance and Gait Problems
Unsteadiness with standing or walking or a change in activity level due to unsteadiness may indicate a balance problem. Poor or ill-fitting footwear can also adversely affect balance and gait.
Risk: Decreased Strength and Flexibility
- Exercise regularly and stay active. Balance and strength exercises have been shown to be the most effective in reducing fall risk.
- Whole-body exercises such as Tai Ji Quan: Moving for Better Balance® have been found to improve balance. Find programs close to you with our maps.
- You may also ask your primary health care provider for a referral to a balance program or physical therapist. This is especially important if you are unsteady or are afraid of falling. Also, remember to wear supportive shows without heels. Loose slipper should be avoided.
Common problems include decreased neck and trunk flexibility, decreased hip and ankle strength, and decreased ankle flexibility.
- Exercises that strengthen weak muscles and increase flexibility of tight muscles can help improve balance and ability to walk. We recommend Tai Ji Quan: Moving for Better Balance®.
- You may consult with your primary care provider for strengthening ideas.
Find programs in your area here: Program Maps.
Risk: Low Levels of Vitamin D
Vitamin D is important for strong muscles and bones for fall risk reduction.
Risk: Impaired Hearing
- Healthy adults can improve balance, muscle strength, and bone strength and reduce the risk of falls and fractures by taking 800 IUs of Vitamin D3 or Cholecalciferol/day.
- Ask your primary care provider if this is right for you.
It may be difficult to localize the source of a sound or one may not hear a vehicle or person approaching.
- Schedule regular hearing checks.
Dizziness can result from many conditions and should be evaluated by your primary health care provider if present. A common problem is low blood pressure when standing causing one to feel lightheaded. Another common source of dizziness is inner ear or vestibular problems.
Risk: Altered Mental Status
- Contact your primary health care provider with any symptoms of dizziness. He or she will evaluate this and determine the cause.
- If the cause is thought to be due to inner ear problems you may be referred to and ENT physician specializing in this and/or a physical therapist specializing in vestibular or inner ear problems.
- Make sure you are steady and not dizzy when coming to a stand before you begin to walk.
Depression or dementia can decrease activity level and one’s ability to attend to environmental changes.
Risk: Use of Multiple Medications
- Contact your primary health care provider with any symptoms or concerns.
Many medications have side effects that can impair your coordination and balance or cause dizziness. Medication risk increases with the number of medications that are taken. Four or more have been shown to increase fall risk.
Risk: Alcohol Use
- Consult with your primary health care provider and pharmacist for more information regarding the medications you take and their potential side effects and interactions with each other.
- Your primary health care provider may choose to decrease or change medications if appropriate. You should NEVER change your medication without consulting with your primary health care provider first.
Excessive alcohol use can also negatively affect balance.
Risk: Impaired Vision
- Limit alcohol intake. This may be especially important if you are taking medication.
The inability to accurately see one’s environment can lead to falls. A change to bifocals may temporarily affect your balance. Changes in depth perception may also contribute toward falls.
Risk: Chronic and/or Acute Illness
- Schedule regular vision checks.
Many chronic neurological conditions (such as Parkinson’s Disease, stroke, and head injury) and other chronic illnesses may impair balance. Inactivity or weakness following an acute illness or hospitalization may also impair balance and increase fall risk.
Risk: Recent Falls
- Consult with your primary health care provider with any symptoms of unsteadiness, weakness or difficulty with walking during your daily tasks.
- A physical therapist referral may be appropriate.
A fall within the past 6 months may put you at greater risk of another fall. This is especially true if the fall occurs without apparent cause, such as with walking from one room to the next.
Risk: Environmental Hazards
- Assess the cause of the fall and make appropriate corrections to personal risk factors or the environment if appropriate.
There are trip hazards in your home that may make it more likely to fall such as throw rugs that stick up or cords not hidden or put away.
Risk: Fear of Falling
- Click on the link below for a home safety assessment and make any modifications necessary.
Home Safety Assessment - How safe is your home?
Fear of falling can inhibit you from participating in your daily activities of living.
- Matter of Balance, an 8-week classroom-based course, has been shown to significantly reduce fear of falling. Find programs in your area here: Program Maps.