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Take steps to prevent falls this winter

LEXINGTON — Winter brings frigid temperatures which can leave ice on driveways and sidewalks around our homes. Preventing falls outside can be as easy and using de-icers to melt it before it becomes a safety issue for you and your family.

Since colder temperatures tend to keep us inside the house more, let’s look at proven ways to reduce falls inside our homes. First, check the lighting throughout your home and make sure you are using bright light bulbs. Clearly seeing your surroundings is important for your safety. Next, remove any unsecured rugs or small items that you could easily trip over. All hallways should be clear of clutter. If you have stairs, make sure that the railings are secure on both sides. Then check out the bathrooms—add grab bars inside and outside your tub or shower.

“We need to be proactive in preventing falls in our homes,” said Sheila Ahmad, MD, ARH Family Medicine. “Safety measures are key in preventing devastating falls which can lead to serious bone fractures or head injuries.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one out of five falls causes a serious broken bone like wrist, arm, ankle and hip fractures as well as serious head injuries. Over 800,000 patients a year are hospitalized due to a fall injury. Most falls are caused by a combination of risk factors. The more risk factors a person has, the greater their chances of falling.

“Many risk factors can be changed or modified to help prevent falls,” added Dr. Ahmad. “Adults should check their medications for possible side effects like dizziness and discuss any mobility issues with their healthcare provider. Keep in mind a good night’s sleep is also important. If you are sleepy when you get up, you are more likely to fall.”

Other fall risk factors include getting up too quickly from your chair as this can cause your blood pressure to drop which in turn can make you feel wobbly. If you consume alcohol, limit the amount of alcohol you drink. Even a small amount can affect your balance and reflexes.

Don’t walk on stairs or floors in socks or in shoes with smooth soles. Wearing non-skid, rubber-soled, low-heeled shoes or lace-up shoes with non-skid soles that fully support your feet can deter falling. It is important that the soles are not too thin or too thick.

Be proactive and take steps to prevent falls in your home, and schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider who can evaluate your mobility and look for any lower body weakness, including leg or foot pain which could affect your balance. If you are looking for a healthcare provider, go to www.arh.org and click on ‘Find a Physician’ in your area.

This winter enjoy being cozy in your home knowing that you have taken precautions to eliminate fall hazards.