A little slip on the ice doesn't sound like much...
But it could cost you big time.
We're talking nearly $37,000 in out-of-pocket medical costs on average, months of pain and physical therapy – potentially lasting longer than a year – and a huge disruption to the comfort of your day-to-day routine.
And that's if you're lucky enough to survive...
When temperatures drop and the ground becomes icy, people tend to slip and fall. And for older folks, falls are more likely to happen for a number of reasons, including issues with balance, reduced strength, or less range or ease of motion.
What's more, the consequences of a fall tend to be much more severe for older folks because as we age, our bones become less dense, meaning they can break more easily.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's ("CDC") Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 1 in 4 people in the U.S. – age 65 and older – experience a fall each year, making it the leading cause of accidental injury and death.
One study from Brazil looked at 250 seniors that had been hospitalized for a fall. The researchers found that a whopping 25% of the folks that sustained a severe fracture died within a year... And of the people who tragically died, two-thirds did so within the first three months after their fall.
And when it comes to the differences between men and women, the CDC's report found that women experienced more nonfatal falls than men did last year. However, men had higher rates of fall-related deaths, and they were more likely to fall in the ice or snow while using things like ladders.
We don't want you walking into a death trap... especially one that's preventable. So follow my three tips to avoid falling this winter.
Doc's Tips for Preventing a Fall
1. Focus on your feet.
Your shoes need a good tread on the bottom. Check your shoes and you may find that many of them have no tread at all. When inside your home, avoid walking around the house in socks or slippers with smooth soles.
Your shoes must also fit well. Shoes that are too big or too small will throw off your balance. To make sure you're wearing the best ones for your feet, have your feet measured at the shoe store or at home. Pay attention to both the length and width of your feet.
Keep in mind that most people have two different-sized feet. So, if you need two different sizes, buy two different pairs. Spending a little extra money to ensure you have the appropriate shoes is worthwhile, compared to the alternative risk of falling.
And many folks experience nerve damage in their feet as they get older, which causes pain, weakness, and numbness. This condition is known as "neuropathy," and according to a 2021 study from Johns Hopkins University, it affects around 10% of folks age 40 to 69 and as many as 40% of folks age 70 and older.
To help with neuropathy – and even if you don't have it – start massaging your feet every day. Manual massage helps with pain and also stretches and relaxes the muscles of your cramped-up feet.
I'm a huge fan of massages and recommend getting them regularly. Here's an eight-minute YouTube video that will guide you through some foot massage basics.
2. Do a prescription checkup.
If any of your medications are impacting your balance or making you dizzy, talk to your doctor about switching or discontinuing them. Take a list of all your medications and the corresponding doses with you. This way, doctors can evaluate whether any negative drug interactions are occurring, and they can avoid any if they end up changing your prescription.
Similarly, if you notice your vision isn't as clear as it used to be, it may be time to update your existing eyeglasses prescription. Schedule an appointment with your eye doctor if this is the case for you.
3. Don't skip your workout.
Maintaining good muscle tone and flexibility throughout your life is essential to helping keep you safe. (And fortunately, it can be a lot of fun, too.)
Yoga and tai chi are great low-impact ways to improve your strength, flexibility, and balance. For instance, a recent meta-analysis of 24 randomized controlled trials found that seniors who practice tai chi can reduce their risk of falling by nearly 25%.
Both yoga and tai chi are also highly versatile activities, so the movements can be modified to meet a wide range of physical abilities – like chair yoga, for example, where all of the moves can be done in a seated position. (Read more about chair yoga here.)
Lifting weights is another great way to build and maintain your fitness levels at any age. Weight training increases your muscle mass and helps strengthen your bones. You can even get started without trekking to the gym by using items you already have in your house, like bottles of water or cans of food. (Read more about weightlifting here.)
Do what I do and make sure to move your body – in a variety of ways – for at least 20 minutes every day.
Never underestimate the severe consequences of a fall. Instead, follow my advice and keep yourself safe. By caring for your feet, updating your prescriptions, and keeping your body strong, you'll be doing a lot to ensure you survive the ice this winter.
What We're Reading...
- Something different: The family behind the first traditional nutcracker is still making them.
Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,
Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
December 12, 2023