What You Can Do to Prevent Falls

What You Can Do to Prevent Falls

Ask Mr. Pedometer and Friends….Prevent Falls

Q:  Mr. Pedometer, an elderly (read: older than me) friend of mine fell recently, and now she’s afraid to leave her house, even for short walks.  I’ve told her that inactivity is bad for her, but she is afraid of falling again.  Any advice?

A: Sadly, you both are correct: Assuming that your friend is over 65, once she has fallen, her chances are doubled that she will fall again.  And, as you have warned her, limiting her movement can cause lower body weakness that actually increases her risk of falling.  This is National Fall Prevention Week, and here is some important information from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (cdc.gov):

Important Facts about Falls

Each year, millions of older people—those 65 and older—fall. In fact, more than one out of four older people falls each year, but less than half tell their doctor. Falling once doubles your chances of falling again.

Falls Are Serious and Costly

  • One out of five falls causes a serious injury such as broken bones or a head injury,
  • Each year, 3 million older people are treated in emergency departments for fall injuries.
  • Over 800,000 patients a year are hospitalized because of a fall injury, most often because of a head injury or hip fracture.
  • Each year at least 300,000 older people are hospitalized for hip fractures.
  • More than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falling, usually by falling sideways.
  • Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBI).
  • In 2015, the total medical costs for falls totaled more than $50 billion. Medicare and Medicaid shouldered 75% of these costs.

What Can Happen After a Fall?

Many falls do not cause injuries. But one out of five falls does cause a serious injury such as a broken bone or a head injury. These injuries can make it hard for a person to get around, do everyday activities, or live on their own.

  • Falls can cause broken bones, like wrist, arm, ankle, and hip fractures.
  • Falls can cause head injuries. These can be very serious, especially if the person is taking certain medicines (like blood thinners). An older person who falls and hits their head should see their doctor right away to make sure they don’t have a brain injury.
  • Many people who fall, even if they’re not injured, become afraid of falling. This fear may cause a person to cut down on their everyday activities. When a person is less active, they become weaker and this increases their chances of falling.

What Conditions Make You More Likely to Fall?

Research has identified many conditions that contribute to falling. These are called risk factors. Many risk factors can be changed or modified to help prevent falls. They include:

  • Lower body weakness
  • Vitamin D deficiency (that is, not enough vitamin D in your system)
  • Difficulties with walking and balance
  • Use of medicines, such as tranquilizers, sedatives, or antidepressants. Even some over-the-counter medicines can affect balance and how steady you are on your feet.
  • Vision problems
  • Foot pain or poor footwear
  • Home hazards or dangers such as
    • broken or uneven steps, and
    • throw rugs or clutter that can be tripped over.

Most falls are caused by a combination of risk factors. The more risk factors a person has, the greater their chances of falling.

Healthcare providers can help cut down a person’s risk by reducing the fall risk factors listed above.

What You Can Do to Prevent Falls

Falls can be prevented. These are some simple things you can do to keep yourself from falling.

Talk to Your Doctor

  • Ask your doctor or healthcare provider to evaluate your risk for falling and talk with them about specific things you can do.
  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist to review your medicines to see if any might make you dizzy or sleepy. This should include prescription medicines and over-the counter medicines.
  • Ask your doctor or healthcare provider about taking vitamin D

Do Strength and Balance Exercises

Do exercises that make your legs stronger and improve your balance.

Prevent Falls - Senior Balance exercises by https://eldergym.com/elderly-balance/


Tai Chi is a good example of this kind of exercise.

Have Your Eyes Checked

Have your eyes checked by an eye doctor at least once a year, and be sure to update your eyeglasses if needed.

If you have bifocal or progressive lenses, you may want to get a pair of glasses with only your distance prescription for outdoor activities, such as walking. Sometimes these types of lenses can make things seem closer or farther away than they really are.

Make Your Home Safer
  • Get rid of things you could trip over.
  • Add grab bars inside and outside your tub or shower and next to the toilet.
  • Put railings on both sides of stairs.
  • Make sure your home has lots of light by adding more or brighter light bulbs.

“Here are six easy steps you can take today to help your older loved one reduce their risk of a fall: You might be able to help your friend (or yourself!) by following these suggestions from Alameda County’s Life Elder Care (LifeElderCare.org):

1. Enlist their support in taking simple steps to stay safe.

“Ask your older loved one if they’re concerned about falling. Many older adults recognize that falling is a risk, but they believe it won’t happen to them or they won’t get hurt—even if they’ve already fallen in the past…. If they’re concerned about falling, dizziness, or balance, suggest that they discuss it with their health care provider who can assess their risk and suggest programs or services that could help.

2. Discuss their current health conditions.

“Find out if your older loved one is experiencing any problems with managing their own health. Are they having trouble remembering to take their medications—or are they experiencing side effects? Is it getting more difficult for them to do things they used to do easily?

“Also make sure they’re taking advantage of all the preventive benefits now offered under Medicare, such as the Annual Wellness visit. Encourage them to speak openly with their health care provider about all of their concerns.

 3. Ask about their last eye checkup.

“If your older loved one wears glasses, make sure they have a current prescription and they’re using the glasses as advised by their eye doctor.

“Remember that using tint-changing lenses can be hazardous when going from bright sun into darkened buildings and homes. A simple strategy is to change glasses upon entry or stop until their lenses adjust.

“Bifocals also can be problematic on stairs, so it’s important to be cautious. For those already struggling with low vision, consult with a low-vision specialist for ways to make the most of their eyesight.

4. Notice if they’re holding onto walls, furniture, or someone else when walking or if they appear to have difficulty walking or arising from a chair.

“These are all signs that it might be time to see a physical therapist. A trained physical therapist can help your older loved one improve their balance, strength, and gait through exercise. They might also suggest a cane or walker—and provide guidance on how to use these aids. Make sure to follow their advice. Poorly fit aids actually can increase the risk of falling.

5. Talk about their medications.

“If your older loved one is having a hard time keeping track of medicines or is experiencing side effects, encourage them to discuss their concerns with their doctor and pharmacist. Suggest that they have their medications reviewed each time they get a new prescription.

“Also, beware of non-prescription medications that contain sleep aids—including painkillers with “PM” in their names. These can lead to balance issues and dizziness. If your older loved one is having sleeping problems, encourage them to talk to their doctor or pharmacist about safer alternatives.

6. Do a walk-through safety assessment of their home.

“There are many simple and inexpensive ways to make a home safer. Here are some examples:

  • Lighting: Increase lighting throughout the house, especially at the top and bottom of stairs. Ensure that lighting is readily available when getting up in the middle of the night.
  • Stairs: Make sure there are two secure rails on all stairs.
  • Bathrooms: Install grab bars in the tub/shower and near the toilet. Make sure they’re installed where your older loved one would actually use them.”

I hope that some of the above information will help you assist your friend in staying safe – and active!


Assembling an Emergency Supply Kit

Assembling an Emergency Supply Kit

Ask Mr. Pedometer and Friends… about Assembling an Emergency Supply Kit

September 17, 2019

Q: Mr. Pedometer, do you have recommendations for Assembling an Emergency Supply Kit?           

A: Assembling an emergency supply kit should be a priority before an earthquake or other emergency situation. September is National Emergency Preparedness Month.  The theme for 2019 is “Prepared Not Scared.”  Here are more tips (from Bay City News) about how to prepare:

Before an earthquake, some steps to take for safety include strengthening your home, securing FEMA 2019 Ready Logoobjects that might fall and gathering critical documents like identification, legal and medical files, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Assembling an emergency supply kit should also be a priority, and FEMA recommends having these items in the kit:

  • Water: Make sure you have a gallon per person per day for at least three days

  • Food: Store at least a three-day supply of non-perishable foods, including infant formula and pet food
  • Flashlight, radio and cell phone charger
  • Medical: Include a first aid kit and both prescription and over-the-counter medications

  • Sanitation supplies
  • Assistive technology: Include battery backup power for power-dependent mobility devices, oxygen and other assistive technology needs
  • Clothing and blankets

  • Whistle: Include a whistle to signal for help
  • Fire extinguisher

  • Cash: Store cash in case ATMs are not functioning after the earthquake

More information about earthquakes and resources available before, during and after one is available online.  — Bay City News

We all should strive to live up to the motto of “Prepared Not Scared.”  Don’t forget to have extra batteries for your flashlight and your radio.  And having a whistle on your key chain is a good idea for safety even without an earthquake-sized emergency.   Let’s remind one another to move ahead with emergency preparedness – no more procrastinating!



Preparing for a Safe Trip

Preparing for a Safe Trip

Ask Mr. Pedometer and Friends…

August 7, 2019

Q:  Mr. Pedometer, instead of plane, boat, or train, I will be traveling by automobile this summer.  Any suggestions for making it a safer trip?     

A: The August edition of Consumer Reports on Health (CR.org/health) has some good suggestions for you to help you have a safe trip:


    “A 2017 AAA study found that about 9 out of 10 older drivers Classic Car for World Walk to Wellness Blog on Safe Tripdon’t make any modifications to their cars that could make driving easier.  These can include handles and grips that can help with getting into and out of the vehicle, convex or multifaceted mirrors that make seeing blind spots easier, or steering wheel covers that make gripping the wheel less painful if you have arthritis in your hands.”


    “Performing a thorough check of your car’s functions can help avoid delays or hazardous situations while you’re on the road.  Check the levels of the oil, coolant, brake, and windshield washer fluids. Check for any wear and tear, cracks, weak spots, or hardened glassy surfaces on hoses and belts; replace any that are damaged.  Make sure the battery terminals and cables are firmly attached, and look through the radiator grill to ensure it’s clear of any obstructions.  Check the pressure in the tires, and add air if needed.  For more pre-trip tips, go to CR.org/roadtripprep.”


    “Older adults are at a higher risk for blood clots, and sitting in a confined space – such as your car – for more than 4 hours can increase your risk of developing a clot in your legs, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.  So split up your sitting:  Be sure to take breaks and get up and walk around every few hours, the agency recommends.  Plus, if you are getting drowsy, a break is a good opportunity to take a quick nap, switch drivers, grab a cup of coffee – or all of the above.”


    “A complete first-aid kit should include bandages (clean wounds thoroughly before dressing); anti-histamines for allergies; over-the-counter pain relievers; anti-diarrheal remedies…; antacids; lubricating eye drops; and a thermometer.  And don’t forget to pack insect repellent, sunscreen, tweezers for tick removal, and hand sanitizer.”

  • PACK FOR HEALTH – “Make sure you have enough of all your medications to last you through your whole trip, plus a few days extra in case of any delays, says the CDC.  Ask your insurer for a ‘vacation override” if you need to refill your meds early before you leave.  Be sure to bring along an insurance card, your health-care provider’s contact info, and a list of your medications and dosages.”

  • KEEP SNACKS SAFE – “Keep any perishable snacks (such as cheese or cut fruit) in a cooler; wrap or package meat items separately, and fill in any extra space with ice or cold packs. Store non-perishable items like nuts or dried fruits elsewhere so that you need to limit how many times you need to open the cooler.”

I hope these ideas will help you have a safe and happy road trip!  Take walks wherever your destination.


Creative Ways to Stay Hydrated

Creative Ways to Stay Hydrated

Ask Mr. Pedometer and Friends…


July 31 2019

Q: Mr. Pedometer, what are some good ways to stay hydrated in the hot summer weather other than drinking water?

A: Drinking plain water does get old – but there are ways you can still focus on staying hydrated. Last month’s Consumer Reports on Health (cr.org/health) offered the following tips:

  • MAKE WATER TASTIER Ways to stay hydrated in the hot weather with fruit infused water“Fill a pitcher or large water bottle with water each morning and aim to finish it off by bedtime will help you stay hydrated. If plain water is unappealing,“Add a splash of 100 percent fruit juice to a glassful” “Or chop up strawberries, melon, cucumber and orange, mint or other flavorful items and mix into a pitcher of water.

  • CHOOSE FRUITS AND VEGGIES – “Watermelon is a great choice during the summer months, but so are strawberries, lettuce, celery, spinach, tomatoes, and cooked squash – because they all contain 90 percent water or more.”

  • WHIP UP A SMOOTHIE – “In some cases, a smoothie you buy at a smoothie shop may have some of the same disadvantages as sports drinks and sodas: too much sugar. But if you make a smoothie at home, you can skip the sugar and pack your drink with other healthy ingredients, such a leafy greens, grains, or protein sources like silken tofu. For one of our favorite frappes, first blend ¼ cup oats until powdery. Add 1 1/2 cups frozen mixed berries, ½ cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt, ¼ cup orange juice, and 1 teaspoon orange zest. Blend until smooth.”

I hope that some or all of these ideas will help you stay hydrated, despite not liking to drink plain old water.


Are you dehydrated?

Are you dehydrated?

Ask Mr. Pedometer and Friends…”Are you dehydrated? How do we know?”

July 24, 2019

A:  Are you dehydrated? As we are experiencing hotter days of summertime, it’s important to stay hydrated and know the signs of dehydration.  Here’s what Nancy George wrote in an article for everydayhealth.com:

Dehydration, occurs when the body Are you dehydrated? Two people drinking water to stay hydratedhas insufficient water and other fluids to function properly. This can lead to blood clots, seizures, and other potentially fatal complications.  Studies have shown that even mild dehydration can have adverse effects on mood and energy.  That’s why it’s so important to catch dehydration early on. Unfortunately, the signs aren’t always obvious ones like thirst and fatigue.”  Here are some less obvious indicators that you might be dehydrated:

  • BAD BREATH – “Saliva has antibacterial properties in it. Dehydration can prevent your body from making enough saliva. When you’re not producing enough saliva you can get bacteria overgrowth. One of the side affects of that is bad breath from chronic dehydration,” says John Higgins, MD, associate professor of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Texas in Houston, and chief of cardiology at Lyndon B General Hospital.

  • DRY SKIN –   “A lot of people who get dehydrated are really sweaty.  Going through the various stages of dehydration, you become very dizzy, and you don’t have enough blood volume so you get very dry skin,” Dr. Higgins says.  He adds that because the skin is dry and not evaporating as well, you can also experience flushing of the skin.

  • MUSCLE CRAMPS – “The hotter you get, the more likely you are to get muscle cramps. This is from a pure heat effect on the muscles.  As the muscles work harder and harder, they can seize up from the heat itself.  Changes in the electrolytes, changes in the sodium and potassium can lead to muscle cramping as well,” according to Higgins.

  • FEVER AND CHILLS – “It might sound counterintuitive but if your body is severely dehydrated you may experience symptoms like fever or even chills.  Fever can be especially dangerous, so be sure to seek immediate medical attention if your fever rises over 101 degrees Fahrenheit.”

  • FOOD CRAVINGS, ESPECIALLY FOR SWEETS – “When you’re dehydrated, it can be difficult for some nutrients and organs like the liver, which uses water to release some glycogens and other components of your energy stores. The result is that you actually can get cravings for food,” Dr. Higgins says.  Causing you to crave anything from chocolate to a salty snack. Cravings for sweets are more common because your body may be experiencing difficulty with glycogen production, he says. Snacking on fruits and vegetables with high water content can help. (Cantaloupe, strawberries, watermelon, cucumber, celery, zucchini, tomatoes, and bell peppers are suggested). Yogurt also can supply helpful water.

  • HEADACHES – “The brain sits inside a fluid sack that keeps it from bumping against the skull,” explains Higgins.  “If that fluid sack is depleted or running low because of dehydration, the brain can push up against parts of the skull, causing headaches.”  Drinking alcohol, energy drinks, or caffeine can cause dehydration.

  • COLORED URINE – “If you’re well-hydrated, your urine will be mostly clear with a tinge of yellow,” Higgins explains.  “Yellow chardonnay and orange are the ‘warning’ colors to watch for.  When your body is about three percent dehydrated, your urine will be noticeably yellow.  Whereas when your body is about five percent dehydrated, your urine will appear chardonnay-colored.  If your body is more than five percent dehydrated – which is considered severely dehydrated, – your urine will appear orange.”

As we “Walk ‘n’ Talk” together this summer, we can help each other recognize symptoms of dehydration.  Bringing along a water bottle is a good idea if the forecast is for weather over 80 degrees during our morning walk time.