Please note: This information was current at the time of publication but now may be out of date. This handout provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. 

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Am Fam Physician. 2004;69(5):1215

Who is at risk of falling?

Anyone can fall, although the risk is higher in older people. Each year, falls occur in about one third of people 75 years or older who are living in their homes. This increased risk of falling may be the result of changes that come with aging plus other medical conditions, such as arthritis, cataracts, or hip surgery.

What can I do to lower my risk of falling?

Because most falls (75 percent) occur in the home, you can make sure your home is safe by following these tips:

  • Make sure that you have good lighting in your home. As we age, less light reaches the back of the eyes where vision is located. The lighting in your home must be bright so you can avoid tripping over objects that are not easy to see. You should put nightlights in your bedroom, hall and bathroom.

  • Fasten rugs firmly to the floor or use rugs with a nonskid backing. Loose ends should be tacked down.

  • Do not allow electrical cords to be lying on the floor in walking areas.

  • Put handrails in your bathroom by the bathtub, shower, and toilet.

  • Have support rails installed on both sides of stairs and be sure the stairs are well lit.

  • In the kitchen, make sure items are within easy reach. Do not store things too high or too low. Then you will not have to use a stepladder or a stool to reach them.

  • Wear shoes with firm, nonskid, nonfriction soles. Avoid wearing loose-fitting slippers that could cause you to trip.

What else can I do?

Take good care of your body. Try to stay healthy by following these tips:

  • See your eye doctor once a year. Cataracts and other eye diseases can cause you to fall if you do not see well.

  • Exercise regularly to keep your bones and muscles strong.

  • Take good care of your feet. See your doctor if you have pain in your feet or large, thick nails or corns.

  • Talk to your doctor about any side effects you may have with your medicines. Problems caused by side effects from medicine are a common cause of falls.

  • See your doctor if you have dizzy spells.

  • If your doctor suggests that you use a cane or a walker to help you walk, please use one. This will give you extra stability when walking and will help you avoid a bad fall.

  • Do not smoke.

  • Limit alcohol to two drinks per day.

  • When you get out of bed in the morning or at night to use the bathroom, sit on the side of your bed for a few minutes before standing up. Your blood pressure takes some time to adjust when you sit up. It may be too low if you get up quickly. This can make you dizzy, and you might lose your balance and fall.

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