(BPT) - With the winter season approaching, you may need to pay closer attention to watching your step. Even if you're active, healthy and full of life, statistics show that you have a greater chance of taking a debilitating fall as you age. Mayo Clinic notes that some 400,000 "fragility fractures" occur annually due to falls injuring osteoporosis-weakened bones.
"We get injured when we try to do things beyond our abilities," notes Kim Lombard, an injury prevention coordinator at Mayo Clinic. "Often I hear 'I knew I shouldn't have done it, but I did' or 'I knew I should have asked for help.' People are so afraid to lose their independence they don't want to ask for help, but asking for help actually extends their independence."
Lombard offers several suggestions for minimizing your chances of a debilitating fall this season.
* Inspect your home for hazards inside and out. Which floors, steps, sidewalks or other surfaces could become slippery from melted snow and ice? Which floor coverings and floorboards could cause tripping? Should you install nonslip treads, railings and/or ramps?
* Arrange to have driveways and sidewalks plowed and salted. Consider contracting out these chores for peace of mind when bad weather hits.
* Walk like a penguin. People of any age should take short, careful steps when navigating snow or ice, adopting a wide stance and pointing feet slightly outward to maintain a center of balance. Keep your hands out of your pockets for added leverage.
* Exercise your legs and core. Intense weightlifting isn't necessary; you can improve strength, balance, coordination and flexibility through low-impact yoga, tai chi, water workouts or dance.
* Know your limitations. Remember that you're probably not as nimble as you used to be, and your balance could be reduced if you're on certain medications, have hearing issues and/or you've been drinking.
* Protect yourself with good footwear. Avoid stocking feet. Whether inside or out, wear close-fitting shoes and boots that provide good traction. Consider investing in handy removable ice cleats that strap right onto your shoes or boots for walking on slippery surfaces.
* Keep your head up. Instead of checking your phone, digging in your purse or reading your shopping list, pay close attention to where you're walking.
* Use railings. Get in the habit of holding on whenever you pass.
* Take it easy. Give yourself plenty of time to get in and out of your car and to walk to and from your destination.
* Be prepared. Wear winter gear even on short walks so you'll be protected if you take a spill. And always bring your phone so you can call for help as needed.
Taking steps to modify your environment or behavior can go a long way to ensure that you stay safe this winter season. For more health tips and information, please visit us at mayoclinic.org.