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PREVENTING FALLS ON ICE

Posted 11/20/2012 Printable Fact Sheet

More snow will soon fall in New England, and everyone will be slipping and sliding all over the place. The following is a review and some tips on staying upright while walking.

Tony LaCasse, a mountaineer and former winter rescuer in New Hampshire's White Mountains, advises to walk like a skier in order to lower the center of gravity.

"Know how to fall," he said. "One of the first things I teach kids learning to ski is to fall on their butt."

Perhaps the best approach is to prevent those falls in the first place. Walking like a penguin could be helpful. Heather Urquhart, a biologist and the manager of the penguin exhibit at the New England Aquarium previously told the Boston Globe to keep your knees loose, point your feet out slightly and extend your arms to the sides to keep your balance.

People should also try to avoid walking with heavy bags since they can throw a person off balance, and don't take long strides. If penguin-walking isn't possible, bend slightly forward and walk flat-footed. Take short steps or shuffle.

In addition, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force issued draft recommendations on preventing falls in those over 65. It's the leading cause of life-threatening injuries in that age group.

The panel recommended exercise and physical therapy to improve gait, balance and muscle strength. This would reduce the risk of falling by 13 percent, based on studies the panel reviewed.

The task force also recommended making home modifications like adding nonslip tape to rugs or grab bars in bathrooms to reduce fall risk by up to 41 percent. It also recommended vitamin D supplements to reduce falling risk by 17 percent. No amount was specified for vitamin D, but the average dose in the studies was 800 international units per day. This is also the amount the Institute of Medicine recently recommended for people over age 70.

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