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Improve Your Health

Maintaining your overall health and wellbeing is essential for healthy ageing and a key component of a multifactorial falls prevention strategy. Alongside the impact of existing co-morbidities, diet, medication intake and cognitive ability can influence falls risk.

Check Your Medicines

As we get older the changes in our body can mean we need to start taking more medications, and also that we can become more responsive to the medications we are already taking. This can result in the need to reduce consumption or change types of medications. Starting a new medication can put an older adult at risk of falling due to the side effects, which can include blurred vision, dizziness, slower coordination and reduced alertness.

As a result of the potential impact, medication consumption can have on your wellbeing and your falls risk, make sure you have your medicines reviewed every year and ask your GP or pharmacist to explain the side effects.

Watch our Check Your Medicines with Nancy animation or listen to a retired pharmacist, Peter, discuss tips on how to reduce your risk of medicine-related falls.

Older adult man in dressing gown and glasses reading medicine labels
What should I look for when I check my medicines?
  • Keep an up-to-date list of your medicines. Note the use-by date and the reason why you are taking them.
  • Book a medicine check or a home medicine review with your GP or Pharmacist.
  • If you have been taking sleeping tablets for longer than two weeks, please ask your GP about a gradual reduction plan.
  • Do not share medicines with others. Mixing medicines can increase side effects.
  • Ask your Pharmacist to organise your medicines into a dosage administration aid or Webster Pack, so you know which medications you need to take and when.
  • Pay attention to how your body and mind feel. If you notice any changes such as feeling dizzy,  drowsy, depressed, or in pain, please speak to your GP.
Who can help
  • Council on the Ageing WA: www.cotawa.asn.au
  • National Prescribing Service: www.nps.org.au
  • Your GP (you might like to ask them about a home medicine review)
  • Your local Pharmacist

Keep a Healthy Mind

Your brain can lose its strength just like your muscles. However, getting older does not mean that your mind and mental strength have to decline.

Keeping your brain active is very important at every age. As we age, maintaining good cognition aids in our alertness and response to falls hazards. There are many simple and enjoyable activities that can help you to keep your brain active, in and around your home and community. These activities work to stimulate your brain and improve your mental fitness.

Staying social is also very important for a healthy mind, and it is a great way to make friends in the local community.

two older adult women standing together smiling
How can I keep an active and alert mind?
  • Keep your brain active to improve your reaction time and alertness to hazards. Try activities such as puzzles, reading and home repairs.
  • Playing games with your grandkids or joining social groups are fun ways to keep your brain alert.
  • Challenge your mind often by trying something new.
  • Drink alcohol responsibly.
Who can help

Fuel Your Body

It is important to eat regular meals from a variety of food groups, stay hydrated and limit alcohol consumption.

Eating a variety of foods regularly ensures the body is constantly getting all the nutrients and energy it needs, all day. Drinking water will help keep the body healthy and active, while limiting alcohol consumption will keep you alert.

A nutritional assessment may assist older adults to better their nutrition. Additionally, to support the consumption of a balanced diet, older adults may benefit from social food activities such as dining with others or group food preparation.

 pura hilo milk dairy carton
Tips for healthy eating
  • Don’t skip meals, and always eat breakfast.
  • Eat with other people; eating meals with your family and friends keeps you well-nourished and mentally active.
  • Cook with fresh, colourful ingredients – even frozen vegetables!
  • Cook big batches of your favourite nutritious foods and freeze them – it makes for quick easy meals later on.
  • Avoid adding extra salt to a meal; instead use herbs and spices.
  • Drink a full glass of water first thing in the morning.
  • Have a water bottle with you throughout the day.
  • Take a water bottle with you when you leave the house, are working outside or doing any exercise.
  • Always have a glass of water with meals.
  • Reduce or avoid alcohol.
Vitamin D and Calcium

Calcium

Calcium is required for normal bone development and maintenance of the skeleton. It forms with other minerals to make the bones hard and strong. Studies have shown that older people do not have enough calcium in their diet to maintain their bone strength and prevent bone loss, therefore placing people at increased risk of a fracture if they fall.

Foods that contain an adequate amount of calcium include:

  • Milk and milk products
  • Leafy green vegetables
  • Soy and tofu
  • Fish, especially canned fish like sardines and salmon
  • Nuts and seeds, especially almonds.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D helps the body absorb more calcium. We get vitamin D from some foods and sunshine, which helps our body to make its own vitamin D. Perth’s climate is considered optimal for preventing vitamin D deficiency; however a Western Australian study found people with reduced mobility, activity and exposure to sunlight had a high chance of being vitamin D deficient.

The following are all sources of vitamin D:

  • Natural sun light
  • Fatty fish such as tuna, salmon and mackerel
  • Fish liver oil
  • Some dairy products

It is important to check with your GP regarding calcium and vitamin D supplements.

Tips for staying hydrated
  • Drink a full glass of water first thing in the morning
  • Have a water bottle with you throughout the day
  • Take a water bottle with you when you leave the house
  • Have a water bottle present when working outside or doing any exercise
  • Always have a glass of water with meals.
Who can help

Australian Dietary Guidelines for eating when you’re older

The Australian Dietary Guidelines provide three guidelines for older adults

Dietary Guideline 1: To achieve and maintain a healthy weight, be physically active and choose amounts of nutritious food and drinks to meet your energy needs

Older adults should eat nutritious foods and keep physically active to help maintain muscle strength and a healthy weight.

You can use these calculators to estimate the amount of energy and nutrients your body needs as well as the average recommended number of serves.

Daily Energy Requirements Calculator

Daily Nutrient Requirements Calculator

Average Recommended Number of Serves Calculator

Dietary Guideline 2: Enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods from the five groups every day

The five food groups:

  • Vegetables and legumes/beans
  • Fruit
  • Grain (cereal) foods, mostly wholegrain and/or high cereal fibre veggies
  • Lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds and legumes/beans
  • Milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or alternatives, mostly reduced fat
Dietary Guideline 3: Limit intake of foods and drinks containing fat, added salt, added sugars and alcohol

It's always good to limit saturated fats, added salt, added sugars, alcohol and low fibre choices for good health.

However older people are also more likely to be living with a chronic disease and part of their self management might involve careful attention to choosing foods. Sometimes though, limiting fats, added salt and added sugars can mean a person who is at risk of malnutrition, actually eats too few nutrients and kilojoules and can put themselves at risk. For some people it’s not straight forward and they need to talk to their health professional about the benefits and risks.

Older people can also find that they need to eat more high fibre foods and to drink more water to avoid constipation as bowels tend to slow down with age.

To test your Improve Your Health knowledge, click here to complete the Improve Your Health quiz.

 

Next, find out how you can keep yourself safe by removing hazards.

Stay On Your Feet® is provided by Injury Matters and funded by the Western Australian Department of Health.

Find out more
Government of Western Australia Department of Health Injury Matters