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Are you at risk of falling?

by: PHOTO: CREATIVE OUTLET - Working out is the best way to keep your balance — if your balance is already healthy. If you have suffered a fall or are starting to worry you might fall, it might be a good time to work with a movement specialist.As we start to age, balance and coordination can affect our overall health. Few people realize, until after the fact, that a fall can set a person back for months and can even lead to death.

Falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries to older people in the United States. More than one-third of adults ages 65 years and older (about 12 million people) fall each year.

Here is a simple checklist to see if you, or someone that you love, is at risk for falling and tips on possible ways to prevent one from happening.

Do you walk with a full gait? This means that your foot should travel behind your pelvis before you lift it to move your foot forward. When you are able to do this, your balance is good. You should be able to stand and dress yourself and go up and down the stairs without much thought.

Do you have a short gait? This means that your feet don’t go past you or your pelvis. This can mean that you might need to hold onto something to fully dress yourself and you need to think about going to go up and down stairs with added support.

Do you shuffle? This means that you no longer pick your feet up to walk. Your balance system is minimal. You may require high blood pressure medication. You can no long fully dress yourself in standing. You can go up and down stairs only one at a time.

Do you have a death grip? Are you holding onto the steering wheel as if you are going to take it with you? If you have a cane or a walker do you use a full grip with both hands? It’s difficult to get in and out of chairs, a booth or your car.

Are your fingers constantly splayed as if you were drying your nails? If so, this means that you have already fallen or have come very close on several occasions. You system is startled and is already bracing for impact.

If your hands are in this position while you are sleeping, this shows that you have fallen, possibly more than once, and you can’t relax, even when you are lying down.

Do you touch the walls or furniture? Do you need to touch something to make sure that you stand up?

Are you a wounded bird? Do you walk around with one or both arms bent, as if you were carrying around a purse?

If you answered yes to number one then you should have answered no to the rest. Your conscious brain is neither worrying nor has concern for your balance. If you answered no to the first one and yes to one or more consider the following:

Check your medications: All medications have side effects. Many medications can cause drowsiness, headaches, poor coordination and other symptoms in relation to balance.

Clear the runway: This is a good time to look at your home from when you step out of the car to going to bed. Is there a brick missing from the front steps? Do you have rugs that curl in the corner? Do you need to navigate around furniture? Even if you are too young to fall, you might be putting a visitor at risk.

Eliminate close calls: Do you frequently find yourself thinking about how to get out of the shower? This would be a great time to put a hand-grip to help you.

Look at your feet: I’m sure that I’m not the first person to recommend a good tie shoe. If your shoes are worn, too high or to loose, they can cause you to fall.

Work with a movement specialist: People think that going to the gym or working out is the best way to keep your balance. It is if your balance is already healthy and you are maintaining that level. If you have suffered a fall or are starting to worry that you might fall, it’s a good time to work with someone who will personally evaluate where your system might be unorganized and in need of assistance.

There will always be a situation that might require a tumble. If you follow these easy steps, it will help keep you walking with ease and stability.

Michelle Turner is a movement integration specialist and educator in Peoria, Ariz. Visit her website at www.movementlesson.com.