Lower Your Risk of Falling

The Basics

The Basics: Overview

You can make small changes to help prevent falls. One in 4 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 without help, like cooking a meal or taking a shower. Broken hips 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:

  • Talk to your doctor about falls and how to prevent them.
  • Do exercises to improve your balance and leg strength.
  • Review all medicines with your doctor or pharmacist. Some medicines can make you dizzy or sleepy.
  • Get your vision checked by an eye doctor every 1 to 2 years. Update your glasses or contact lenses when your vision changes.
  • Make your home safer. For example, add grab bars inside and outside your bathtub or shower – and put railings on both sides of stairs.
Next section 1 of 6 sections

The Basics: Am I at Risk?

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 everyday activities, like walking or turning around.

Some older adults also have vision problems or medical conditions that can make a fall more likely. For example, diabetes can reduce feeling in your feet and a stroke can affect your balance. These conditions can 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 different medicines, especially medicines to help you relax or sleep
  • Have trouble seeing or have a vision problem like cataracts or glaucoma

Use this checklist to find out if you are at risk for falling.

If you are worried about falling, talk to your doctor or nurse about how balance exercises and physical therapy can help. Find out more about preventing falls and fractures.

Next section Previous section 2 of 6 sections

Take Action!

Take Action: Get Active

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

Get active.

Staying 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 can help with balance.

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).

Next section Previous section 3 of 6 sections

Take Action: See a Doctor

There’s a lot your doctor can do to help keep you safe from falls. Talk with your doctor at least once a year about your risk for falling.

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 eyes tested every 1 to 2 years to make sure you are wearing glasses or contact lenses with the right prescription strength. Be sure to update your glasses or contacts if your prescription has changed.

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. If you have weak bones (osteoporosis), you can take steps to stop bone loss and lower your chances of breaking a bone.

Next section Previous section 4 of 6 sections

Take Action: Home Safety

Help prevent falls at home.

About half of all falls happen inside the home. Take these steps to fix the dangerous areas in your home.

Make your home safer:

  • Have railings put on both sides of all stairs on the inside and outside of your home.
  • Have grab bars put inside and outside your bathtub or shower and next to your toilet.
  • Use non-slip mats in the bathtub or shower.
  • Remove small rugs or use double-sided tape to keep rugs from slipping.
  • Use bright lights throughout your home, especially on the stairs.
  • Keep stairs and places where you walk clear of clutter. Pick up or move things you can trip over, like cords, papers, shoes, or books.
  • Keep kitchen items you use often in easy-to-reach cabinets.

Use this checklist to make your home safer

Follow these safety tips:

  • Always wear shoes with non-slip soles, even inside your home. Don’t walk barefoot or wear slippers or socks instead of shoes.
  • Stand up slowly after sitting.
  • Sit up first and then stand up slowly after lying down.
Next section Previous section 5 of 6 sections

Take Action: Healthy Habits

Get enough calcium.

Getting enough calcium can help keep your bones strong and less likely to break. Check out this shopping list of foods high in calcium.

Get plenty of sleep.

Getting enough sleep can help you be more alert so you are less likely to fall.

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?

If you are a caregiver, there’s a lot you can do to protect your loved ones from falling.

You can also use these tips to start a conversation about preventing falls.

Previous section 6 of 6 sections