"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure"
November is Fall Prevention Month. The snow has already started to fly, making our driveways and sidewalks slick, and increasing the likelihood of dangerous falls. Though we must all exercise caution, seniors are even more vulnerable. According to www.fallprevention.ca “Falls are the leading cause of injury among older Canadians. They result in a striking 85% of injury-related hospitalizations and 95% of hip fractures”.
Movement and fresh air are essential for overall health and wellbeing. However, it is important to be cautious when getting outdoors this winter, being mindful of the ice and snow. The risk of falling as a result of the winter weather can be greatly reduced when using the following tips!
Keep your hands out of your pockets for better balance. In the event that you do lose your footing, your arms can serve to help regain balance or break your fall. Wear some cozy gloves to keep your hands warm!
Try out walking poles! Walking poles not only help with balance and stability, but they also help improve spinal alignment and posture, increase the intensity of aerobic exercise and strengthen the muscles of the upper back.
Wear proper footwear! Non-slip treaded boots are essential for grip in the snow and ice.
When the weather is really bad, use your better judgment and stay inside.
While it is true that a strong physical body helps to prevent falls and greatly reduce the risk of fractures, there are many beneficial physical activities such as gentle yoga and stretching that can be done safely indoors when the weather isn’t in our favour. Bear in mind that most falls happen in and around the home so be sure to wear proper footwear both indoors and outside.
Another way to protect yourself against the impact of a fall is through your diet, ensuring we consume adequate levels of calcium, vitamin D and magnesium specifically. Dr. Kent Holtorf, founder of Holtorf Medical Group, reported to www.todaysgeriatricmedicine.com that “Low levels of vitamin D are an increased risk for falls and fractures.”
Calcium is essential for building and maintaining strong and healthy bones that can weather an unforeseen fall. Vitamin D works together with the digestive system to help our guts absorb the calcium from the food we eat. Like most essential vitamins, vitamin D is not found in fresh fruit and vegetables. The body can receive vitamin D best through sunlight. In the winter, when we have limited access to sunny days, we can get vitamin D through foods like fresh fish, red meat, liver, eggs, some dairy products or supplements. If you take a supplement, magnesium in the diet is also necessary for vitamin D activation. Magnesium can be found in foods such as nuts, avocado, whole grains and my favourite dark chocolate!
Many medications can also increase the likelihood of a fall. Anti-hypertensive medications can cause blood pressure to get too low and can cause lightheadedness and fainting. Other medications that suppress the central nervous system such as anti-anxiety meds, sleep aids, antidepressants and opioids can also contribute to falls as they reduce alertness and slow reaction time. Therefore, if you are taking one of these medications be sure to allow yourself a little extra time and care when getting around.
How can you help? Be a snow angel! Do you have a senior or neighbour close by with limited mobility? Perhaps you could offer to help out by helping them remove snow from their sidewalks and driveways or even running an errand for them. The key to strengthening our own communities lives in all of us. We all have the capacity to give back and help others.
For more information or local support please call the Peachland Wellness Centre at 250-767-0141 and speak to a Services Coordinator, Teri or Linda.