Postmenopausal Women Need to be Especially Cautious to Prevent Falls

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • Sometimes we take what we’re able to do during our lives for granted. Yet going through menopause, women really need to assess our capabilities and be more vigilant about what we’re doing – or attempting to do.

    Here’s a case in point – falling. Recently I spoke with a 56-year-old friend who has completed the menopausal transition. She told me that she was walking with some friends outdoors after work when she caught her foot on something. She wasn’t able to correct her balance and ended up falling. My friend didn’t hurt herself, but she did feel shaken up (and somewhat embarrassed since her fall coincided with the end of the workday when several people saw her fall as they were driving home). I told my friend that I’ve come close to falling while walking my dog early in the morning. It’s really dark at that time and the streetlight in that area doesn’t really light that section of the sidewalk. Therefore, I didn’t see the uneven pavement and that led to an awkward stumble. I was lucky because I was able to get a foot under me, but I could have easily fallen and scraped up my knees – or worse, broken a bone.

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    An increased risk of falling isn’t caused by menopause; you can chalk this risk up to aging. According to the National Institutes of Health, each year more than 33 percent of people who are 65 years old or above will have a fall.

    However, one outcome of falls – broken bones – can be linked to the menopausal transition because of bone loss. Falls can lead to fractures of the hip, legs and arms, as well as head traumas. NIH points out that older women are more than 50 percent more likely than older men to suffer a hip fractures due to falls. As we age, these types of injuries can impair independence and, when we’re older, increase the risk of death.

    A fall also can get into your head, causing you to avoid activities for fear of falling again. Therefore, it’s really important to take appropriate preventative action to help you remain upright as you age. Here are some suggestions to help you maintain your balance as you age:

    • Get your eyesight checked. One group of researchers found that impairment of vision increased the risk of falling by 33 percent. Another study looked at a group of patients who had hip fractures. These researchers found that 33 percent of the study participants were visually impaired and 58 percent had issues with their distance vision in at least one eye. Therefore, the British Geriatric Society recommends an eye exam to detect emerging vision issues before they become permanent. These vision issues can include a reduced field of vision, impaired depth perception and cataracts.
    • Eat for bone health. I’ve recently written a sharepost for HealthCentral’s diet and exercise site about what you should eat to protect the health of your bones.
    • Work on your balance and lower-body strength. The National Institute on Aging recommend doing regular balance exercises along with lower-body strength exercises twice a week. Balance exercises can be done using a chair to steady yourself initially; the goal is to eventually be able to do these exercises without the use of the chair. Other exercise routines such as tai chi and yoga also can help you improve balance. Squats and lunges are examples of lower-body strength exercises.
    • Consider your shoes. Carrie Bradshaw would not be happy, but it’s important to reconsider your shoe choices as you age. Wearing high heels can set you up for falls; floppy shoes and those with slick soles aren’t any better. Wearing only socks when walking on a slick surface (such as wood floors) also puts you in danger of falling. Therefore, try to find shoes that are sturdy, fit properly and have nonskid soles.
    • Check your environment for fall hazards. Indoors, you may have a variety issues that can challenge your balance, such as stairs, rugs, loose cords, the grandkids’ toys on the floor and pets that skitter around your legs. Outdoors can be hazardous as well, through uneven pavements, tree roots that emerge from the ground, and uneven terrain. Therefore, it’s important to really look at your environment and take the necessary steps to be safe. Those steps can mean putting all your grandchildren’s toys in a basket each evening, bundling up loose cords, taping down area rugs or (in my case) taking a flashlight to illuminate those early morning walks.

    Primary Sources for This Sharepost:

  • The College of Optometrists. (2011). The importance of vision in preventing falls.

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    Mayo Clinic. (2014). Fall prevention: Simple tips to prevent falls.

    National Institute on Aging. (2013). Exercise & physical activity: Your everyday guide from the National Institute on Aging.

    National Institutes of Health. (2014). Preventing falls.

Published On: March 07, 2014