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8 Tips to Avoid Falling; The Leading Cause of Accidental Death in the Elderly

8 Tips to Avoid Falling; The Leading Cause of Accidental Death in the Elderly

Ask Mr. Pedometer and Friends…

June 15, 2019

Q: Mr. Pedometer, I read that “Every 11 seconds in the U.S., an older adult ends up in the emergency room due to a fall. ‘It’s the leading cause of accidental death in the elderly,’ says Catherine Colon-Emeric, M.D., chief of geriatrics at the Duke University School of Medicine. Do you have any advice that could help us avoid falling?

A: You certainly are not alone in having concerns about falling – and with good reason. The June issue of Consumer Reports on Health has some tips to help prevent falls.  Below are the 8 tips that can help all age groups but especially the elderly to avoid the risk of a broken hip or a concussion:


    – “Some prescription and over-the-counter meds can affect balance. For instance, diuretics may lower blood pressure too much and lead to dizziness on standing. Some allergy drugs, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl and generic) may cause dizziness and sleepiness….Some meds can cause dehydration, which can also increase the risk of falling when you stand up…. At least once a year, review your meds – Over-the-counter, alternative products, and supplements – with your doctor.” 


    – “Eyesight naturally changes with age… [which] can make it more difficult to see shifts in terrain and other stumbling blocks. Hearing loss, too, has been linked to an increased risk of falling. A 2012 study from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, for example, found that middle-aged people with mild hearing loss were three times as likely to fall. See your eye doctor every year or two…. Have your ears checked at least every three years starting at age 50, or earlier if you are having trouble hearing.”


    – “Rugs, clutter, steps, cracked driveways and sidewalks, poor lighting, slick surfaces – all can contribute to tumbles. If you’re concerned about falling in the house and unsure about how to proceed, the Institute on Aging ( has a home safety checklist.”


    – “Exercises that enhance gluteal, leg, and core strength Elderly man stretching and exercisinghelp with balance, says Colon-Emeric. ‘These muscles make it easier to catch yourself before you fall and make it easier to get out of bed, lift yourself off the toilet, or get out of the car.’ Moves like knee bends (stand tall and bend your knees as if you were going to sit in a chair behind you) and sideways walking (keeping feet parallel, step out to the side with one leg, bring the other foot to meet it, then step out again) are part of a balance program called Otago that’s recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”


    – “’Exercise is important, but simply practicing getting off the floor can make you stronger and less likely to fall,’ says Kathleen Bell, M.D., a psychiatrist and chairwoman of the department of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. She suggests getting up and down 10 times three to four times a week. (When starting out, do this next to a bed or another stable object you can hold onto.)”


    “If you struggle with balance, choose shoes with sturdy, nonskid soles that fit snugly enough so they’re not sliding around underneath you. ‘You don’t have to opt for ugly shoes, but you don’t want to be walking around in bedroom slippers either,’ Bell says. If you’re unsteady, heels aren’t a good idea, nor are those hot-weather favorites, flip-flops. They offer zero support, catch on rugs, often have little grip on slick surfaces, and slip off easily.”


    “Having a pet can be good for your health, but your beloved pooch may also trigger falls by tripping you or pulling you down…. ‘Besides making sure you’re matched with a dog that suits your lifestyle, working with a trainer to learn how to control your dog and using a good leash and collar can help minimize falls,’ says Grace Anne Mengel, V.M.D., an assistant professor of clinical primary care at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine.”


    “Research suggests that simply being afraid of falling increases your likelihood of taking a tumble. In part, anxiety about falling can make it harder to focus on your surroundings. This fear can also cause you to limit physical activity, which in turn can lead to muscle weakness. If you find yourself frequently worried about falls, speak to your doctor.”

I hope these suggestions can help you avoid falling and allow you to continue to enjoy taking walks.


Help Boost Your Memory

Help Boost Your Memory

Q:  Mr. Pedometer, you offer good advice on how we should “move more” for wellness, but is there any way we could also help boost our brain power?

A: That’s a timely question, as June happens to be national Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month.  Just in time, our local newspaper included a “Spry Living” insert, with a list of “brain-booster” tips, including the following:

Brain-Boosting Tips for Memory

  • KEEP MOVING! Yes, you’ve heard it before, but regular exercise Men and Women walking on a path building their memorytops the list of experts’ recommendations to stave off diseases like Alzheimer’s (dementia) and to stimulate the creation of more brain cells, according to Wendy Suzuki, PhD, a professor of neural science and psychology at New York University and author of Happy Brain, Happy Life.  “One study of older adults found that walking 40 minutes a day, three days a week, increased the size of the hippocampus, the brain’s memory center, — effectively reversing age-related loss by a year or two.”
  • ENGAGE MULTIPLE SENSES – University of Iowa researchers found that our memory for sounds declines as soon as 4-8 seconds after we hear them. “Repeating something back immediately can help shore up your memory, but seeing the words works even better.”
  • CLOSE YOUR EYES – “University of Surrey research shows that shutting your eyes frees up brain power and helps bring back recent and distant memories. Respondents who closed their eyes scored 23 percentage points higher on a memory test.”
  • HIT REPLAY TO PRESERVE GOOD MEMORIES – “We tend to remember what we pay attention to,” says Suzuki. “The more you bring a memory back to mind, the stronger it becomes.” Repetition strengthens neural connections, allowing the memory to resist interference from other memories or general degradation.
  • DOODLE – “Unlike many dual-task situations, doodling while working can be beneficial,” says Jackie Andrade, PhD, author of a British study that found the activity can boost recall by nearly 30 percent.
  • ADD CINNAMON TO YOUR COFFEE [OR TEA] –“The scent boosted cognitive functions – including memory and attention span – in a study at Wheeling Jesuit University. The spice also contains two compounds that may help prevent the brain cell changes that lead to Alzheimer’s.”

Who among us has not had a so-called “senior moment,” perhaps when it comes to remembering a person’s name…or where we left our car keys? If any of the above can help reduce those foggy-brain feelings, they are worth a try!





May is Women’s Health Month!

May is Women’s Health Month!

Q:  Mr. Pedometer, aren’t you forgetting something?  Isn’t May Women’s Health Month?    

A: OOOPS!  Thanks for the reminder!  This is our last newsletter for May, but there still is time to encourage the women in your life to get their annual physicals, including mammograms.

I am told that neither procedure is anyone’s favorite, but an important part of wellness is preventative care.  An annual check-up with one’s doctor, followed by referrals for lab work and (for females) a mammogram, may be what prevents a premature death.

National Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month.

It is no coincidence that May also is National Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month. One out of every two women (and one in four men) over age 50 will have an osteoporosis-related fracture in their lifetime.  Even more shocking:  Twenty percent of seniors who suffer a hip fracture die within one year!  Check with your doctor to see if your Medicare coverage will cover the cost of a bone mass measurement procedure (which is quick and painless).

Better still, make sure your diet includes foods rich in calcium and vitamin D.  Doing regular weight-bearing exercise – such as walking – also can help prevent osteoporosis in women and men.

For more information on Women’s Health topics check out this resource from The Office on Women’s Health. 





Working on Wellness: Making a change for better health

Working on Wellness: Making a change for better health

Working on Wellness: Making a change for better health

This is a great article for women’s health from on simple small ways to make healthy changes for a healthier life.  (Good for you guys too!)


Cutting one 12-ounce can of soda out of your diet daily equals about 150 calories less per day. In one month that would equal 4,500 calories and in one year you would be consuming 54,750 less calories. Since 3,500 calories equal one pound of body fat, you would lose over 15 pounds in one year, just from one small change.

On the flip side, small changes on the activity side of the equation, also add up. For example, if you walked 15 extra minutes per day, this would burn an extra 80 calories per day and 29,200 extra calories per year, resulting in a losing eight pounds in one year — just from one small lifestyle change.


Losing just 10 percent of your body weight significantly slows the loss of the knee cartilage in overweight adults with osteoarthritis. The weight loss could relieve pain and even delay knee replacement.


It’s never too late for women to reap the benefits of moderate aerobic exercise. In a three-month study of 16 women age 60 and older, brisk walking for 30-50 minutes three or four times per week improved blood flow through to the brain as much as 15 percent.


According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 70 percent of smokers really do want to quit. There’s an often overlooked “secret weapon” that can help you to stop smoking, and that’s regular physical exercise. Exercise helps limit weight gain and it also helps in dealing with cravings for a cigarette. Studies have shown that even moderate physical activity, especially aerobic exercise, reduces the urge to smoke. Withdrawal symptoms and cravings for cigarettes decrease during exercise and for as long as 50 minutes afterward.


You would need to walk the length of three football fields to burn off the calories in one potato chip. If you eat a bag of M & M’s, you would need to walk the length of 53 football fields to burn off those calories.


A team of investigators from UCLA found that adults over the age of 60 who are already struggling with memory issues are better able to focus and process information if they walk more than 4,000 steps a day (roughly 2 miles). The study revealed that those who walked more than 4,000 steps each day had thicker areas of the brain known to be critical to thought processing. What’s more, such avid walkers demonstrated “better cognitive functioning.”

Will Walking help those of us with high blood pressure?

Q:  Mr. Pedometer, I know you encourage us all to walk frequently, but I am wondering, will that help those of us with high blood pressure?

A:  This month’s AARP Bulletin reported that high blood pressure is just one of half a dozen ailments that can be improved by taking regular walks – but at different speeds and durations.

Here is an excerpt from the article by Sara Altshul, describing what walking can help:

  • HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE – “Shoot for at least 1.75 miles at a moderate rate (3-4.5 miles per hour) most days of the week to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, says Paul T. Williams, a life sciences researcher at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California.”
  • ARTHRITIS – It may seem counter-intuitive that people with joint pain can feel better if they walk more, but that is what the research shows. Start with 5 minutes and build up to 30 minutes per day of walking at a leisurely pace for 5 days per week, suggests Leigh F. Callahan, assistant director of the Thurston Arthritis Research Center, U. of North Carolina.  “If the pain is worse two hours after the walk than it was before the walk started, take a less intense walk the next time.”
  • DEPRESSION – Walking fast “increases the production of serotonin, dopamine, and other brain chemicals that lift your mood, says John B. Arden, author of The Brain Bible. “Start with 10 minutes of strolling, then walk briskly to 75 percent of your maximum effort – a pace that makes talking difficult.  Keep that up for 2-3 minutes, then resume a strolling pace.  Repeat these intervals for 20-30 minutes.”
  • INSOMNIA – Exposure to daylight can help. “Bright light inhibits the body’s secretion of melatonin, our natural sleep agent,” says Donald W. Greenblatt, M.D., director of the Medicine Sleep Center at the U. of Rochester, New York. “When you block melatonin in the morning by walking outside, it then bounces back later in the day, helping to promote sleep.”  Late afternoon walks also can be effective.  Try for daily walks at a comfortable pace for15-30 minute, finishing your walk at least 3 hours before bedtime.  “Be patient:  some evidence suggests that it can take a couple of weeks to get the full benefit of exercise, so don’t be disappointed if you are not experiencing an immediate effect, Greenblatt says.”
  • OSTEOPOROSIS – Did you know that walking helps preserve bone? Walking 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week, can make a difference.  “Three 10-minute walks a day are as bone-strengthening as one 30-minute walk,” says Andrea Singer, M.D., of the national Osteoporosis Foundation.
  • TYPE 2 DIABETES – “Walking after eating sweets can prevent a blood sugar spike. Walk for 15 minutes at an easy pace about a half-hour after breakfast, lunch and dinner.…Because people with diabetes can develop foot infections due to reduced blood flow to the feet, it’s important to get properly fitted for walking shoes.”

So, you see, that’s even more reason why you should…





Is it safe to donate blood?

Ask Mr. Pedometer and Friends…

Q:  Mr. Pedometer, is it safe to be a blood donor?

A:  Good question, since January is National Volunteer Blood Donor Month.  Donating is a safe, pain-free (except for a needle prick) process that takes about an hour.  Most of that is spent filling out a questionnaire and having blood pressure and blood iron level checked. According to the American Red Cross (which provides about 40% of the blood needed in the USA), if you are at least 17 years old, weigh at least 110 pounds, and are in generally good health, you likely will be eligible to donate blood.  The questionnaire will ask about your health history and medications to ensure that your blood is safe for a recipient.

All blood types are needed, but Stanford Hospital recently notified the news media that they are particularly in need of Type O negative.

Good news: Blood donors now can save time at their next donation by using RapidPass to complete their pre-donation reading and health history questionnaire online, on the day of their donation, prior to arriving at the blood drive or donor location.  To get started, and learn more, visit and follow the instructions at that site.

You need to bring your driver’s license (or blood donor card, or two other types of identification) when you check in to donate blood.  You also can call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) to make an appointment or to get more information.

The reason this is the month of a national blood donor drive is that winter weather tends to decrease the number of donors making appointments or dropping in to donate, right at a time when there continues to be a great need for these life-saving contributions.

Can you spare one hour to possibly save someone’s life?