By DR. THOMAS F. VAIL
Did you know that September is Fall Prevention Awareness Month and Thursday, the first day of fall, was designated by the National Council on Aging as Fall Prevention Awareness Day?
The event raises awareness about how to prevent fall-related injuries among older adults. The theme of this year’s event was “Ready, Steady, Balance: Prevent Falls in 2016!” Since Fall Prevention Awareness Day was first observed in 2008, the organization has grown in participation from 11 states to 48 states and the District of Columbia in 2015.
This year, they hope to expand their reach even further. And who better to help with your balance and prevent falls but your podiatrist.
In fact, many podiatrists have entire programs dedicated to educating senior patients on fall prevention. The federal government requires that a fall analysis be conducted for patients over the age of 65 that rates their risk of falling.
Podiatry encompasses not only treating foot conditions but preventing them, and this includes falls related to poor foot health. Keeping your feet healthy will diminish the risks of falling. Here are some tips to keep you ready, steady and balanced.
• Wear shoes that keep you safe. Choose rubber or nonskid soles that fit well. Athletic shoes are a good choice. Choose flats or shoes with low heels and avoid high heels or platforms. Don’t wear flip-flops or backless shoes or slippers. And remember never to walk around in stocking feet, even when indoors.
• Improve your balance by wearing foot braces or custom orthotics. There are new braces today that have slim profiles and fit in most shoes. They will give your ankle extra support while walking. Custom orthotics put your foot back in the “neutral” position, thus supporting your arch and correct pronation and supination.
• Build strength in your feet and toes. Exercises, including resistance and stretching, will help your feet stay strong and supportive as you age.
• Talk with your primary care physician about your medications at every visit. The way your body reacts to medications can change as you age, so certain medications that were fine in the past may cause side effects now. Your health care provider can help review your medications and make changes if needed.
• Check your vision and hearing. Problems with vision or hearing can lead to falls. Get your eyes checked at least once a year and your hearing every other year. Take time to adjust to new glasses. Inner ear problems can affect your balance.
• Remove hazards from your home that you can trip on like throw rugs, boxes or cords.
• Using a cane or walker will keep you steady on your feet. Remember to use your cane on your stronger side. Don’t leave home without them!
• Don’t let fear keep you from leading an active life. Fear can lead to isolation from others, depression, or the use of more medications or alcohol. All these things can make falling even more likely.
As we get older, we’re not as steady on our feet as we once were. But you can do things to make falling less likely. Talk to your podiatrist or primary care physician and lead a safe and active life.
Vail is with Advanced Footcare Clinic, Findlay. Questions for Blanchard Valley Health System experts may be sent to Weekend Doctor, The Courier, P.O. Box 609, Findlay, OH 45839.
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