8 tips to stay strong and sharp – and prevent falls

Missing a step or briefly losing your balance can happen anywhere, but strong muscles and sharp reflexes can prevent these trips and stumbles from becoming falls and leading to injury.

Missing a step or briefly losing your balance can happen anywhere, but strong muscles and sharp reflexes can prevent these trips and stumbles from becoming falls and leading to injury.

Missing a step or briefly losing your balance can happen anywhere — at home, on the mini-golf course, or while walking in the parking lot from your car to the grocery store. Strong muscles and sharp reflexes can prevent these trips and stumbles from becoming falls and leading to injury.

You can help keep your muscles and reflexes strong and sharp at any age. Here are some simple steps I recommend:

1. Invest in your core muscles.

Can you get out of a chair, walk across the room and return to sitting in a fluid, comfortable motion? If not, you may benefit from a core muscle “tune up.” Most core muscle exercises do not require special equipment and can be done without breaking a sweat. Start with chair-based core muscle exercises and gradually work your way up. You will be surprised how light and strong you feel with a strong core!

If you’re a Kaiser Permanente Medicare Advantage (HMO) member, you have access to wellness and fitness programs, including Silver&Fit,® which provides a variety of fitness classes that can help improve your flexibility, balance and strength.

2. Check your medications.

Many common medications — such as those for high blood pressure, chronic pain, mood and sleep — can affect balance and reaction time. Your doctor can help you determine if any of your prescription or nonprescription medications could affect your balance or reaction time and if there might be a better option for you.

3. Get enough sleep.

You’re more likely to fall if you’re tired or sleepy. Sleep needs vary, but many older adults need seven to eight hours of sleep every night.

4. Don’t multitask.

Avoid talking on the phone or texting while walking or climbing stairs. It’s easier to be sharp when you aren’t juggling other tasks.

5. Avoid too much alcohol.

Even small amounts of alcohol can affect your balance and reflexes. Studies show that the rate of hip fractures in older adults increases with alcohol use.

6. Get the right equipment.

Use a cane or walker if you need it. Consider getting a shower chair if you’re unsteady while standing for long periods of time.

7. Tell your care team if you’ve fallen.

Falls are common and are a warning sign that you are at risk for injury. If you fall, tell your doctor so that you can work together to prevent another fall.

8. Choose a health plan that supports your health as you age.

Choose a health plan with benefits that support your total health. If you’re 65 or older, you may be eligible for Medicare. The open enrollment period is an opportunity for anyone who is eligible for Medicare to consider if their current health plan meets their needs. Every year, Medicare open enrollment runs from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7. If you are turning 65 or had another qualifying life event, such as moving, you can enroll during a special enrollment period. Take advantage of these times to ask about coverage details and compare plans to meet your health needs.

There is a lot to consider. To learn more about Medicare, you can attend a Kaiser Permanente local seminar in person or online, call a Kaiser Permanente Medicare specialist at 1-866-949-3143 (TTY 711), seven days a week, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., or visit kp.org/wa/healthnews.

You must reside in the Kaiser Permanente Medicare health plan service area in which you enroll. Silver&Fit® is a federally registered trademark of American Specialty Health, Inc. Kaiser Permanente is an HMO plan with a Medicare contract. Enrollment in Kaiser Permanente depends on contract renewal.

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