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Written by Grace Rattue 
Copyright: Medical News Today via Medical News Today

Each year around 1 million individuals fall - with winter officially here, take precautions in order to avoid falling on slippery sidewalks. Approximately 20,000 adults die every year as a result of fall-related injuries according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

Furthermore, around 15% of job-site accidents are due to injuries from falls, amounting to nearly 15% of all workers' compensation costs. 

Mike Ross, author of "The Balance Manual" and exercise physiologist at Gottlieb Center for Fitness, part of the Loyola University Health System, explained: "Many falls can be successfully avoided or the impact minimized by applying a few basic strategies." 

At Gottlieb, Ross teaches individuals, mainly those over 50 years, balance classes year-round. As individuals age, unavoidable bodily changes might affect the persons' safety. Ross states: "Balance deteriorates as we get older due to the weakening of muscles and change in sensory perception, especially in the ear structure." The brain and inner ear primarily determine equilibrium, or balance. 

Ross explains: 

"As we age, our eardrums often thicken and the bones in the middle ear and other structures are affected. It often becomes increasingly difficult to maintain balance. Aging also breaks down cells in the nervous system, which can often result in a delay in reflexes that can lead to susceptibility to injury."

In order to take control and prevent injuries from falls, Ross provides eight tips how to avert slips and falls this winter.

  • Make sure your shoes and boots have good grip as better traction can help keep you more stable on slippery surfaces. If the traction on your footwear is worn, it's time for a new pair.
  • Make sure railings leading to your house are sturdy enough to support you if you slip.
  • Keep a shovel and salt in your house so you don't have to walk on a slippery sidewalk rather than the garage, as this defeats the purpose.
  • If the sidewalks are icy slow down rushing will more likely cause you to fall than taking it easy.
  • Carry a cell phone with you when leaving the house in case you fall and find it hard to get up.
  • Have a plan. When leaving the house, ask yourself "if I slipped and fell here, what would I do?"
  • Exercise regularly to keep your leg muscles strong. Strong leg muscles will make it considerably more easier to get back up. Do a set of 10 squats out of chair a couple times per week, or walk up and down the stairs repeatedly.
  • Ask individuals around you for help. The majority of people are more than happy to help an older person navigate a slippery sidewalk.

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