Fall Prevention: Simple Tips To Prevent Falls

Trip hazards can cause falls around the home.

By Jan Untz, RN, BSN, Oxford Orthopedic Coordinator

Falls can put you at risk of serious injury. Fall prevention may not seem like a lively topic, but it is quite important. Physical changes and health concerns—and sometimes the medications used to treat those conditions—can make falls more likely.

Fact: Falls are a leading cause of injury among older adults.

Help prevent falls with these simple fall-prevention measures, from reviewing your medications to hazard-proofing your home.

Talk to Your Doctor

Make an appointment with your doctor to begin your fall prevention plan.

Be prepared to answer questions such as:

  • What medications are you taking? Make a list of your prescription and over-the-counter medications and supplements, or bring your medications to the appointment.
    Your doctor can review your medications for side effects and interactions that may increase your risk of falling. To help with fall prevention, the doctor may consider weaning you off certain medications—such as sedatives and some types of antidepressants.
  • Have you fallen before? Be prepared to discuss instances when you fell and give detailed information about when, where, and how you fell. You also need to be prepared to discuss instances when you almost fell but were caught by someone or managed to grab hold of something just in time. Details such as these may help your doctor identify specific fall-prevention strategies.
  • Could your health conditions cause a fall? Certain eye and ear disorders may increase your risk of falls. Be prepared to discuss health conditions and how comfortable you are when you walk—do you feel any dizziness, joint pain, numbness or shortness of breath when you walk? Your doctor may evaluate muscle strength, balance and gait as well.

Keep Moving

Physical activity can go a long way toward fall prevention. If approved by your doctor, you may want to consider activities to reduce the risk of falls and improve your strength, balance, coordination and flexibility such as walking, water workouts or tai chi.

If you avoid physical activity because you’re afraid it will make a fall more likely, talk about it plainly. Your doctor may recommend carefully monitored exercise programs or may refer you to a physical therapist, who can create a custom exercise program to improve balance, flexibility, muscle strength and gait.

Wear Sensible Shoes

Consider changing your footwear as part of your fall-prevention plan. High heels, floppy slippers and shoes with slick soles can make you slip, stumble and fall. People at risk for falls should wear properly fitting, sturdy shoes with nonskid soles.

Remove Home Hazards

Take a look around your home. The living room, kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, hallways and stairways may be filled with hazards.

To make your home safer:

  • Remove boxes, newspapers, electrical cords and phone cords from walkways.
  • Move coffee tables, magazine racks and plant stands from high-traffic areas.
  • Secure loose rugs with double-faced tape, tacks or a slip-resistant backing—or remove loose rugs entirely.
  • Repair loose floorboards and carpeting right away.
  • Store clothing, dishes, food and other necessities within easy reach.
  • Immediately clean spilled liquids, grease or food.
  • Use nonslip mats in the bathtub and shower.

Light Up Your Living Space

Keep your home brightly lit to avoid tripping on objects that are hard to see.

You can also:

  • Place night lights in the bedroom, bathroom and hallways.
  • Place a lamp within reach of the bed for middle-of-the-night needs.
  • Make clear paths to light switches that aren’t near room entrances.
  • Consider trading traditional switches for glow-in-the-dark or illuminated switches.
  • Turn on the lights before going up or down stairs.
  • Store flashlights in easy-to-find places in case of power outages.

Use Assistive Devices

Your doctor might recommend using a cane or walker to keep you steady. Other assistive devices can help, too.

For example:

  • Hand rails for both sides of stairways
  • Nonslip treads for bare-wood steps
  • A raised toilet seat, or one with armrests
  • Grab bars for the shower or tub
  • A sturdy plastic seat for the shower or tub plus a hand-held shower nozzle for bathing while sitting down

If you or someone you know could be at risk for falls and would like to learn more about Oxford’s Lifeline Personal Emergency Response System click here.

Hypertension: High Blood Pressure

Checking BP for signs of hypertension

By Crystal Maggard, RN Oxford Cardiopulmonary Coordinator

Have you checked your blood pressure lately??

Did you know that long-term elevated blood pressure is called “the silent killer?”

High blood pressure is a common condition in many people, many of whom often are not even aware they have it. Blood pressure is determined both by the amount of blood your heart pumps and the amount of resistance in your arteries—the more blood your heart pumps and the narrower your arteries, the higher your blood pressure.

Uncontrolled high blood pressure increases your risk of serious health problems, including heart attack and stroke. You can have high blood pressure for years without any symptoms or any problems. However, damage to blood vessels and your heart can develop and cause life threatening problems.

Fortunately, high blood pressure can be easily detected and controlled with the help of your physician. The first step is simply becoming aware of your elevated blood pressure.

Symptoms

Even if blood pressure readings reach dangerously high levels, most people with high blood pressure have no signs or symptoms, thus, the name “the silent killer.”

Some people may have:

  • Headaches
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nosebleeds

However, these symptoms aren’t specific, and they usually don’t occur until high BP has reached a life-threatening level.

Causes

There are two types of high blood pressure.

Primary (Essential) Hypertension

For most adults, there’s no identifiable cause of high BP. This type of high BP, called primary (essential) hypertension, tends to develop gradually over many years.

Secondary Hypertension

Some people have high BP caused by an underlying condition. This type of BP, called secondary hypertension, tends to appear suddenly and cause higher BP than primary hypertension. Various conditions and medications can lead to secondary hypertension, including:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Kidney problems
  • Adrenal gland tumors
  • Thyroid problems
  • Certain defects in blood vessels you’re born with (congenital)
  • Certain medications, such as birth control pills, cold remedies, decongestants, over-the-counter pain relievers and some prescription drugs
  • Illegal drugs, such as cocaine and amphetamines
  • Alcohol abuse or chronic alcohol use

Risk Factors

High blood pressure has many risk factors, including:

  • Through early middle age, or about age 45, high blood pressure is more common in men. Women are more likely to develop high blood pressure after age 65.
  • High blood pressure is particularly common among African Americans, often developing at an earlier age than others.
  • Family history
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Not being physically active
  • Using tobacco
  • Too much salt (sodium) in your diet
  • Too little potassium in your diet
  • Too little vitamin D in your diet
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Stress
  • Certain chronic conditions. Kidney disease, diabetes and sleep apnea, among others, can be a risk factor.

Complications

Uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to:

  • Heart attack or stroke
  • Aneurysm
  • Heart failure
  • Weakened and narrowed blood vessels in your kidneys
  • Thickened, narrowed or torn blood vessels in the eyes
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Trouble with memory or comprehension

What You Can Do

Talk with your doctor.

You should have your physician obtain a BP reading at least every two years starting at age 18. If you’re 40 or older—or you’re age 18-39 with a high risk of high blood pressure—ask for a yearly BP reading with an appropriate-sized arm cuff. Your doctor will likely recommend more frequent readings if you’ve already been diagnosed with high BP or have other risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

Children age 3 and older will usually have BP checked as a part of their yearly exam.

Blood pressure measurements fall into four general categories:

  • Normal blood pressure – Below 120/80 mm Hg.
  • Prehypertension – Systolic pressure ranging from 120 to 139 mm Hg or a diastolic pressure ranging from 80 to 89 mm Hg. Prehypertension tends to get worse over time.
  • Stage 1 hypertension – Systolic pressure ranging from 140 to 159 mm Hg or a diastolic pressure ranging from 90 to 99 mm Hg.
  • Stage 2 hypertension – Systolic pressure of 160 mm Hg or higher or a diastolic pressure of 100 mm Hg or higher.

If you fall into the pre-hypertension or hypertension categories, it is important to talk to your physician about getting your BP under control.