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Lower Your Risk of Falling

The Basics

You can make small changes to help prevent falls. One in 3 older adults will fall each year. Falling can lead to broken bones, trouble getting around, and other health problems – especially if you are age 65 or older.

A fracture (broken bone) can cause pain and disability. It can also make it hard to do everyday activities, like cooking a meal, without help. Hip fractures are a major cause of health problems and death among older adults.

You don’t have to be afraid of falling. Take these steps to prevent falls:

  • Exercise to improve your balance and leg strength.
  • Ask your doctor to review your medicines. Some medicines can make you dizzy or sleepy.
  • Get your vision checked by an eye doctor at least every 1 to 2 years. Update your glasses or contact lenses when your vision changes.
  • Make your home safer. For example, add railings to both sides of all stairs.

Am I at risk of falling?
As people age, poor balance and weak muscles can lead to falls and fractures. Older adults usually fall while doing simple activities, like walking or turning around.

Some older adults also have vision problems or other medical conditions that can make a fall more likely. For example, a stroke can affect your balance and make you more likely to fall.

You may be more likely to fall if you:

  • Have fallen in the past year
  • Have a health condition that makes it hard to walk or affects your balance, like diabetes or heart disease
  • Have trouble walking, getting up from a chair, or stepping up onto a curb
  • Take many medicines, including medicines to help you relax or sleep
  • Have trouble seeing or have a vision problem like cataracts or glaucoma

If you are worried about falling, talk to your doctor or nurse about how balance exercises, physical therapy, and vitamin D supplements can help.

Get the facts on falls and fractures.

Take Action!

Take Action!

Many falls can be prevented. Follow these steps to lower your risk of falling.

Get active.
Getting active can help you feel better, improve your balance, and make your legs stronger.

Improve your balance.
Exercises that improve your balance can help prevent falls. For example, tai chi (“ty chee”) is a Chinese mind-body exercise that involves moving slowly and gently.

Make your legs stronger.
Do strengthening activities at least 2 days a week. These include lifting weights or using resistance bands (long rubber strips that stretch).

Try these strength exercises at home.

Talk with your doctor about using medicines safely.
Using medicines safely can help prevent falls. Some medicines can make you sleepy or dizzy and can cause you to fall. Take all of your medicines (including over-the-counter medicines) to a doctor or pharmacist and ask if any of them could increase your risk of falling. 

Print this list of other questions to ask your doctor or nurse about preventing falls.

Get your vision checked.
Your vision changes as you get older. Poor vision can increase your chances of falling. Get your vision checked at least once a year to make sure you are wearing glasses or contact lenses with the right prescription strength.

Make your home safer.
About half of all falls happen inside the home. Use this Home Falls Prevention Checklist [PDF - 7 MB] to help you find and fix the dangerous areas in your home.

To help prevent falls at home:

  • Use bright lights throughout your home, especially on the stairs.
  • Always wear non-slip shoes, even inside your home. Don’t walk barefoot or in slippers or socks.
  • Have railings put on both sides of all stairs on the inside and outside of your home.
  • Keep stairs and places you walk clear of clutter. Pick up things you can trip over, like papers, shoes, or books.
  • Remove small rugs or use double-sided tape to keep rugs from slipping.
  • Have grab bars put inside and outside the bathtub or shower and next to your toilet.
  • Use non-slip mats in the bathtub or shower.
  • Keep kitchen items you use often in easy-to-reach cabinets.
  • Stand up slowly after eating, lying down, or sitting.

Get a bone density test.
If you are a woman age 65 or older, get a bone density test to measure how strong your bones are.

Get enough calcium and vitamin D.
Getting enough calcium and vitamin D can help keep your bones strong and less likely to break. Vitamin D helps your body take in calcium. Check out this shopping list of foods high in calcium.

Get plenty of sleep.
Getting enough sleep can help you make good decisions and avoid injuries.

Drink alcohol only in moderation.
Alcohol can increase your risk of falling. Drinking alcohol only in moderation can help you stay safe and avoid injuries.

Are you worried about a loved one’s risk of falling?
Use these tips to start a conversation about preventing falls.

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Start Today: Small Steps