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Protect yourself from falls.

Good balance and coordination are inherent to healthy aging and fall prevention. Ninety percent of fractures are related to falls, and one of every four women who fractures her hip will die within the year, usually of cardiac or pulmonary complications. Thus, improving your balance is key to a healthier, fracture-free life.

By the age of 60, some of the sensory components--visual, auditory and vestibular (the body's system that maintains equilibrium)--needed for balance have diminished. In addition, medications can affect balance and blood pressure, further predisposing us to falls.

Balance exercises should be incorporated into your regular exercise regimen; see "Do Balance Exercises to Prevent Falls and Fractures" on pages 6-7 for instructions and illustrations. Standing on foam pads or other flexible surfaces further increases the skill required to maintain balance. Practicing these exercises in bare feet improves your body's ability to sense balance through the small muscles of your toes and ankles.

In addition, it is vital to make your home environment as safe as possible. Install grab bars in bathrooms, the most common location for falls in the home. Remove all rugs that are not properly attached, or install grips underneath area rugs. Be sure all areas are well lit, especially near stairways. Areas that are used during nighttime should be especially well lit and free of loose carpeting. Investigate whether your local hospital has a system that enables you to call or use a buzzer to alert them if you've fallen.

While these changes in the home are useful, nothing takes the place of great balance. So, make balance exercises a regular part of your routine, and speak with your doctor if you notice difficulty with balance that isn't improving with practice.

ORLI R. ETINGIN, MD

Editor-in-Chief

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Author:Etingin, Orli R.
Publication:Women's Health Advisor
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2013
Words:291
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