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Today, we have a guest post from the Osteoporosis Re-Fracture Prevention Project Officer at Royal North Shore Hospital, Christine Collins giving us some tips on preventing falls. Christine comes from a physiotherapy background and works in the Osteoporosis Clinic at Royal North Shore Hospital.
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Falls are no laughing matter – just ask Humpty Dumpty. Whilst medicine has come a long way and we no longer rely on “all the kings horses and all the kings men” to remedy fall related injuries, prevention remains key…particularly if you are an egg.

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Falls are one of the main reasons that older people are admitted to hospital. Each year, one in every three people over the age of 65 will fall. Falls can be associated with serious injuries including hip fracture and head injury. But we’re not only talking about people up ladders (or up on walls for that matter) – the most common type of fall resulting in a hospital stay is a fall on the same level, meaning a simple trip, slip or stumble.

So how do you know if you are at risk of falls? If you answer yes to any of these, you may be at increased risk of falling:
1. Have you had any previous falls (including trips, slips and stumbles)?
2. Do you suffer from any changes in your memory?
3. Do you wear glasses or have poor vision?
4. Do you take more than 4 prescription medications?
5. Are you afraid that you may fall?
6. Do you suffer from incontinence?

If you answered NO to all of these questions, then your falls risk is relatively low. But don’t stop reading. Anything you can do now to protect you from falls in the future is a bonus.

If you answered YES to any of these questions, read on to find out how you could address these problems.

Stay Active

Adult should engage in regular physical activity of moderate intensity, on most days of the week, ideally reaching a total of 300 minutes per week. This includes activities such as brisk walking, swimming, cycling, dancing or organised sport. Balance should also be incorporated into a regular exercise program. Examples include dance, Tai Chi, Yoga, or a home exercise program designed specifically to challenge your balance. Advice can be sought from a Physiotherapist, Exercise Physiologist or accredited Personal Trainer.

Here are my top tips for Staying Active:
• Physical Activity doesn’t have to be the same all the time – if it’s a nice day make the most of it and get outside for a walk, do some gardening, or go for a swim. On other days you might find it more pleasant to take part in an indoor activity such as a gym class or do some exercise on your own at home
• Doing any physical activity is better than doing none. If you currently do no physical activity, start by doing a small amount, and gradually build up to the recommended amount.
• Involve others – you may find it more encouraging and enjoyable to exercise with others.
• Everyone is different – although there are guidelines for exercise, everyone will have their own challenges. Yours may be painful arthritic knees or back. This doesn’t mean you can’t exercise – it just means you may have to choose wisely and modify your program on days when your pain is worse. Speak to a health professional to get advice. But remember, something is better than nothing!

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Information on community exercise programs in NSW can be found at www.activeandhealthy.nsw.gov.au

Know your medications
Some medications have side-effects that could make you more prone to falling. You should know about these. Take your medications as they are prescribed, and ask your GP if you have further questions.


Eat healthily
If you do fall, you are less likely to suffer a fracture if your bones are well nourished. Ensure you get adequate calcium in your diet. Dairy is a good source of calcium, but you will also find it in tinned salmon, some dried fruit and nuts, and green leafy vegetables. Visit www.healthybones.com.au to find out more.

Vitamin D is also very important, and our main source of Vitamin D is sunlight. So ensure you get out in the sun, but remember 6-8 minutes a day is enough for most people. If you are concerned you may not be getting enough Vitamin D, ask your GP.

Put your best foot forward
Wear shoes that are comfortable, fit well, and are appropriate to the activity you are doing. Avoid loose fitting shoes, slippers, thongs or scuffs. Painful foot conditions such as bunions and corns may affect your balance, and can be treated by a Podiatrist.

See clearly
Ensure you have your eyesight checked every 1-2 years. If you wear multi-focals or bi-focals make sure you discuss this with your Optometrist, as they may recommend that you wear different glasses when walking around.

Check your home
Around ½ of all falls occur in the home, so it’s a good place to make changes and eliminate hazards.
Try to eliminate hazards by ensuring loose mats/carpets are lying flat, keeping a light on in the hallway at night, choosing slip-resistant floor surfaces and ensuring stairs are well lit and have non-slip tread. For more information, ask your GP. An Occupational Therapist can also conduct a thorough home safety assessment.

If you are still not sure where to start to reduce your falls risk, then start by discussing any of these issues with your GP or Physiotherapist. Remember, every little change you make will go a long way to protecting you from falls in the future.

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