Common Sense Health: Beware of Falling, It May Kill You

What a sad way to lose a friend. Not from a heart attack or cancer. Rather, a slip and backwards fall caused a strike of the head on a hard unforgiving surface. The traumatic injury resulted in death a few days later.

As Aristotle wrote centuries ago, “To have a good friend you must partake a peck of salt together.” Losing such friends as you get older is very disturbing, often leaving a void in life never refilled.

Recent figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show the immense costs of falls. In North America there are over five and half million incidents yearly costing more than $45 billion! The average cost of a fall that results in injury is about $10,000 dollars.

Humans in the course of evolution ended up with one major drawback. Most animals have four legs. For us, Newton’s Law of gravity means standing upright inevitably leads to a huge number of falls.

They happen quickly with little or no time to protect yourself. Getting up is the morning is the first hazard. So move with great caution and think ahead of the potential pitfalls.

The bathroom is the most dangerous room in any household. Shower stalls should have grab bars and non-slip matts both in and outside the stall. Remember, if you lose your balance, a shower curtain won’t help. Falling in the shower or getting out of it can result in a fractured bone, bad cuts, or head injuries. Sturdy shower doors with handles can help to decrease the chance of a fall.

Having enough strength to get up from the toilet is also paramount. Getting older means a gradual loss of bone mass. Up to the age of 35 is the best time to act as banker, building up a store of healthy bones. After 35, each year we all have less and less bone mass.

A loss of muscle is another problem. Thomas Jefferson, an early US president, noted the importance regular walks to ensure two strong legs for good health. He could have added that isometric exercise builds up arm muscles. No equipment is needed. Just makes two fists and repeatedly push them together for 10 seconds over and over. You will be surprised at how your bicep muscles become stronger.

What other precautions can prevent falls? A visitor to London, England once asked, “Where are the statues of the architects?” The guide replied, “Just look around you!” This is what you must do in your own home. You will find there are dangers everywhere.

Floor rugs are very attractive. But it takes only one bad step to trip on an edge. Stairs are always high risk, so make sure you have adequate railings and hold onto them.

Most people will lose their balance with age. Often it happens when standing up after prolonged sitting. This is a time to go slow. Don’t rush to start moving around. Above all, do not turn suddenly as this is when you lose your balance and end up on the floor.

Be careful of alcohol as well. Moderate drinking can be healthy in aging. A drink before dinner expands arteries, a benefit few scientists acknowledge. But too much alcohol, despite the levity, can make you tipsy. If you have a few drinks, pay extra attention to safe mobility. Like alcohol, medication can trigger falls too, so always check with your doctor on this matter.

Never drink and drive. Remember, trees have a great way of defending themselves.

And watch out for those treacherous icy days that take their toll.

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