Exploring the Link Between Nutrition and Fall Risk for Seniors

nutrition and fall risk

The fall risk for seniors is startlingly high. In fact, falls are the leading cause of injury and serious disability for older adults. According to the National Council on Aging, 1 in 4 older adults will suffer a fall each year. Every 11 seconds, a senior in this country is treated in a hospital emergency room for injuries resulting from a fall. And 1 older adult loses their life every 19 minutes due to complications caused by falling.

One surprising reason a senior might be at a high risk for falls is because of poor nutrition. Many don’t realize the important role good nutrition plays in fall prevention. A healthy diet that contains lean protein, fruits, vegetables, and healthy grains can keep you strong. Useful sources of information on how to eat well as you grow older include MyPlate from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Healthy Eating from the National Institute on Aging.

If cooking for yourself isn’t appealing, it might be tempting to stock up on prepared meals and processed foods. While they are quick and easy to use, most aren’t very healthy. These types of convenience foods tend to be high in trans fat and sodium and low in nutrition. The same holds true for meals you purchase from fast food restaurants.

A better option is to sign up for a home meal service, such as Silver Cuisine or Freshly that deliver precooked meals directly to your front door. You only need to heat and eat! Another option is a meal kit, like Hello Fresh and Purple Carrot. Ingredients come ready for you to cook and serve. Many of these services can also accommodate special dietary needs, such as low salt or gluten free meals.

Other Ways to Lower Your Risk of Falling

  1. Exercise regularly to stay strong

It’s common knowledge that exercise is linked to a longer, healthier life. It helps lower your risk for medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, depression, and diabetes. Regular exercise is essential for maintaining a healthy weight and managing your cholesterol.

Exercise is also crucial for protecting core strength, balance, flexibility, and stamina. Each of these promote better balance and fewer falls. A senior’s exercise plan should be a combination of aerobic activity, stretching, and strength training. As is true of any new fitness activity, talk with your doctor before getting started.

  1. Avoid sitting too much

If you’ve experienced a fall, you might be fearful of falling again. That can make it tempting to avoid physical activity entirely. A sedentary lifestyle, however, actually increases your risk for falls. When you spend too much time sitting, reduced muscle mass and a drop in core strength are common. As are decreased flexibility and balance problems.

Set a goal to get up and move around your house every hour. Weather permitting, take a daily walk outdoors. You can also march in place while you watch your favorite evening news program.

  1. Visit the eye doctor annually

Vision loss also contributes to falls. This is why older adults need to schedule a yearly vision exam—more often if the ophthalmologist recommends it. By having a regular checkup, the doctor can detect a small vision issue before it becomes a big one. This can also lower the risk for experiencing a fall. Vision problems, such as cataracts and changes in eyesight, increase the odds of a fall significantly.

  1. Conduct a home safety assessment

Older homes aren’t always a safe environment for seniors. Seemingly small issues, such as a bump in the carpeting or a poorly placed throw rug can result in a fall. Bathrooms that lack grab bars or a step-in shower are also potentially hazardous.

One way to spot problems is to conduct a home safety audit. You can do this yourself or hire an occupational or physical therapist to conduct the in-home safety assessment for you. If you opt to do it on your own, this home fall-prevention checklist will make it easier.

Independent Living Communities Can Lower Fall Risk

From well-balanced meals and daily fitness activities to an environment designed with safety in mind, an independent living community might be a solution to explore. Before you begin your search, it may be helpful to download A Family Guide to Funding Senior Care & Housing. This free resource will help you learn more about the variety of financing options that are available!