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We need to face up to falls to avoid them

Most of us see falling as a bad thing and prefer not to think about it. Instead we need to develop a sensible awareness of the risk of it and be proactive.

If we batched all the studies that have looked at what increases our risk of falls, we’d have an exceptionally long list that includes muscle weakness, chronic disease, taking multiple medications, obesity, depression, incontinence and poor vision.

An Australian study that followed women in their 70s for 12 years showed a clear link between falling and poor health. In retrospect, say the researchers, the women who eventually fell could have been identified from the start.

So Rule One to avoid falls is to stay physically and mentally healthy. 
Eat well, sleep well, manage stress, manage your weight, get and stay strong and agile, and practice your balance. And that applies whether you’re 50 or 90.

Rule Two: watch where you’re going. 
You no longer have to get four kids fed, dressed and out of the house before 8.00am each day, so slow down and take a deep breath. Walk tall but pay attention to the couple of metres in front of you, and be present to stray cords, wet floors, loose tiles and the like. (My personal favourite is tree roots.)

If you spend your days in your head rather than your body, find a practice that helps you to be present.

Rule Three: wear smart shoes and develop healthy feet. That means non-slip soles, shoes that match the needs of your feet, and feet that are mobile and strong.

Rule Four: don’t do dumb things. Included in that are single-handedly moving furniture that weighs as much as a pair of elephants, standing on the rim of the bathtub (preferably in thongs, Birkenstocks or slippers) to clean on top of a cupboard, or carrying a load downstairs that’s so bulky you can’t see either your feet or the stairs.

We’ve all done something similar. And just because we get away with it doesn’t mean it doesn’t belong on the never-to-be-repeated list.

In Holland older people are learning how to fall by rolling onto thick gym mats. Instead of doing what most of us do instinctively — put out our arm and break our wrist — they’re being instructed to turn so they land on the fleshy part of their side as gently as they can.

I know, easier said. It’s also a lot easier on a foam mat that’s a foot thick than it is on your bathroom tiles.

But the more we’re proactive about being healthy and having a strong, well-functioning body, keeping our wits about us, wearing the right shoes, and not standing one-legged on the window ledge to clean the wall, the more likely we are to avoid having a fall, or if we do, to weather it well.

Photo Source: Bigstock

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Tuesday, January 23, 2018 | Rhonda Anderson