Staying steady as spring approaches

Falling down is no joke it's a serious threat for many people. But with some simple precautions, you can keep your balance and stay upright. I've slipped up a few times myself, so I've learned some tricks to avoid taking a tumble. Let me share what's helped me stay steady on my feet.

First things first, stay active. I know it's easier said than done, but exercise truly is key. Something as simple as a daily walk keeps your muscles and joints limber. Yoga and tai chi are great, too. Just be sure to talk with your doctor before launching a new workout routine. If you need some extra stability, use a cane or walker when you're moving about.

Now, take a look around your home. Do you see any obstacles? Tripping over loose carpets, cords or clutter is not helpful under any circumstance. Keep clear walkways and make sure rooms are well-lit so you can see where you're stepping. Grab bars and railings provide great support, too.

In the kitchen, use a sturdy step stool when reaching up high, and never climb on chairs or counters. That's an accident waiting to happen. Wipe spills quickly since the mess can quickly be masked by wet floors and you might forget about it or be unable to see it later.

Don't forget your vision. Get your eyes checked yearly. New glasses can make a huge difference in avoiding stumbles. Take extra caution on stairs, especially with bifocals. Removing reading glasses when you're walking around is a very smart preventative tip.

Medications can throw us off balance. Talk to your pharmacist or another medical care provider about side effects and possible adjustments. Even some of the over-the-counter medications can make you dizzy or drowsy.

Outside the home, watch for cracks in the sidewalk, wet leaves, snow and ice. Take your time and use handrails whenever possible. Even if you think you are doing fine, that extra safety feature just might save you from a slippery mistake. Proper lighting outdoors is a must.

When you're feeling worn out or lightheaded, take a breather. Pushing through fatigue often leads to mishaps. Listen to your body and sit down to rest when needed. Nobody knows you and your body as well as you do, so trust your instincts when you feel too tired to continue.

After long periods of sitting or lying down, get up slowly. Quick movements can make you woozy. Take it easy and get your bearings before standing.

Lastly, don't isolate yourself. Lack of activity and socializing can weaken your strength and mood, upping your fall risk. Schedule visits with family and friends, join a senior center, or take up a social hobby.

The key is being proactive and using every safety feature and tool you can. Address balance issues with your doctor. They can suggest exercises, physical therapy, medication changes, or other ways to help you stay on your feet.

Christian M. Hartley is a 40-year Alaska resident with over 25 years of public safety and public service experience. He is the City of Houston Fire Chief and also serves on many local and state workgroups, boards and commissions related to safety. He lives in Big Lake with his wife of 19 years and their three teenage sons.

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