Maintaining Balance and Preventing Falls

Fall-related injuries can be serious enough to result in hospitalization and even premature death. People who fall often face major declines in mobility and independence.
Maintaining Balance and Preventing Falls - Articles


Photo credit: Yastremska, Flickr Creative Commons

  • Falls are a leading cause of injury among older adults.
  • The majority of falls occur in the home.
  • Many falls can be prevented.
  • Lack of exercise leads to muscle weakness and increases your chances of falling.
  • Falling once doubles your chance of falling again.
  • Exercise is one of the best ways to reduce your chance of falling.
  • Exercise strengthens your muscles and can improve your balance and coordination.

Risk Factors for Falling

Most falls are caused by a combination of risk factors. The more risk factors a person has, the greater their chances of falling. Check off how many risk factors you have:

  • Muscle weakness, especially in the legs and core (abdominal muscles)
  • Difficulty with walking and/or balance
  • Blood pressure that drops too much when you get up from lying down or sitting causing lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Use of medicines, such as tranquilizers, sedatives, or antidepressants; even some over-the counter medicines can affect balance and how steady you are on your feet
  • Vision problems
  • Foot pain or poor footwear
  • Home hazards such as broken steps and no handrails near stairs
  • Slower reflexes than when you were younger
  • Confusion, even for a short while (e.g., if you wake up in an unfamiliar environment, you might feel unsure of where you are and may trip and fall)
  • Dehydration, a risk for seniors, which can cause lightheadedness and dizziness and lead to a fall.

Tips for Reducing Your Chances of Falling

  • Ask your health care provider what exercise program is best for you and how to begin.
  • Have a health care provider review your medicines, including over-the-counter and herbal remedies, to ensure there are no drug interactions or side effects that may lead to dizziness. Do not change your medications on your own.
  • Have your vision checked. Any changes in vision can lead to falls.
  • Have your hearing checked. Dizziness can occur with hearing loss. The inner ear is responsible for balance in the body.
  • Keep hydrated. Drink water frequently, before you feel thirsty.
  • Make your home safer (see checklist below).

Home Safety Checklist

  • Remove throw rugs, add rubber mats underneath, or use doublesided tape to secure them from moving.
  • Use nonslip, rubber mats and handrails in the shower/tub.
  • Use a nightlight.
  • Make sure there is enough light in rooms--good lighting can reduce the chance of falls. • Have and use handrails on stairs.
  • Wear shoes that give good support and have nonslip soles.
  • Avoid night clothing that drags on the ground. Keep robes tied.
  • Immediately clean up spilled liquids, grease, and food.
  • Remove boxes, paper, shoes, or other obstacles away from walkways.
  • Keep a charged flashlight near your bed for emergencies.
  • Remove coffee tables, magazine racks, plants stands, and electrical cords from high-traffic areas.
  • Put regularly used items on shelves within easy reach between hip and eye level.
  • If you must reach overhead, use a sturdy stool.

Evaluate Your Risk

Take a moment to evaluate your personal risk. Look around your home and yard.

  • What are the fall risks in my home?
  • Is there anything I should stop doing to decrease my risk?
  • Is there something I can do, such as improving my muscle strength, to decrease my risk of falling?

Always remember, falls are preventable!


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention (January 2016).

Prepared and updated by Laurie Welch, extension educator.