Don't fall for it

Health problems

Page last updated: 06 May 2011

Some health problems make it more likely you will fall. The most common of these are:

  • Stroke
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Arthritis
  • Postural hypotension (low blood pressure)
  • Dizziness
  • Diabetes
  • Depression
  • Dementia, Alzheimers
  • Incontinence (problems with your ‘waterworks’ or bowels)
  • Poor nutrition (not eating enough, not eating a balanced diet or not drinking enough water).
  • Even short-term illnesses (such as the flu and other infections) or surgery can temporarily increase your risk of falling.

How do these increase your risk of falling?

  • Stroke, Parkinson’s disease and arthritis can affect your ability to move and make it more difficult to react quickly and save yourself if you stumble.
  • If you have diabetes with unstable blood sugar levels you may feel faint. Diabetes can also cause problems with eyesight, and reduce feeling in the feet and legs. These make it more difficult to move around safely.
  • Depression and dementia can make you less aware of your immediate surroundings and less able to react quickly.
  • Postural hypotension can make you lightheaded, dizzy or unsteady when you stand up quickly.
  • Dizziness can make you very unsteady.
  • If you have incontinence, you may need to hurry to the toilet. This can increase the risk of a fall, especially at night.
  • Not eating well and not drinking enough can mean you don’t have the strength to move safely or manage daily activities easily.
  • Drinking more than a small amount of alcohol can slow your reactions and make you unsteady.
  • Short-term illnesses can cause dizziness, confusion and difficulty walking while you are sick – and even for a few days after.

Osteoporosis can make things worse.
Top of page
If you have osteoporosis (thin, weak bones) you are more likely to break or fracture a bone if you fall.

Health problems....

What you can do:
  • Have regular check-ups with your doctor to ensure your medical conditions are well managed. Discuss any concerns you have with your doctor before they become big problems.
  • Keep as active as possible (see page 7 for more information).
  • Eat a wide variety of foods and drink plenty of water, especially in hot weather. Sometimes food supplements are recommended if you are very thin – ask your doctor or a dietitian.
  • Stand up slowly after lying down or sitting. Take care when bending down and make sure you are steady before walking. Be especially careful when you are ill, for example with the flu.
  • Keep yourself up to date with information about your medical conditions. Some support groups and libraries have easy-to-read information.
  • If you have osteoporosis, your doctor may advise calcium and vitamin D tablets, other medicines, exercise or dietary changes. Also see page 20-21 for information about how to reduce the chance of injury from a fall.

On page 30 there is a Notes page for you to jot down things you can do to reduce your risk of falling.

Remember that:
  • Some causes of memory loss and confusion are treatable.
  • Some causes of dizziness are easily treatable.
For more information about your medical condition and information about support organisations in your area contact:
  • Commonwealth Carelink
  • Nutrition Australia
  • Diabetes Australia
  • Your local library
  • Your local council
  • National Continence Helpline
  • Arthritis Association
See page 29 for contact details.