Older adults have a higher risk of falling. Experts share the best ways to prevent it.

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You can avoid falls as you age. Here's what to know. (Getty Creative) (amoklv via Getty Images)

As we get older, the risks of falling increase. Balance and vision decline, while medical conditions such as low blood pressure and even age-related delays in reaction time can all contribute to falling, Columbia University physician Dr. Peter DeMarco tells Yahoo Life.

While an occasional spill may seem like no big deal, falling can have serious repercussions for older adults whose bones may become more fragile and breakable with age. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, falls are the leading cause of injury and injury-related death in individuals 65 and older, leading to more than 36,000 deaths, 1 million hospital stays and 3 million emergency room visits each year.

“Many of the falls do not cause injuries,” Dr. Prashant Natteru, a neurologist with the Mayo Health Clinic System in La Crosse, Wisc., tells Yahoo Life. “But one out of five falls does cause a serious injury such as a head injury or broken bones like wrist, arm, ankle and hip fractures.” In addition, he says, traumatic brain injuries can cause death, with that risk heightened if the individual is on blood thinners.

Physical therapist Sue Wilson tells Yahoo Life that falling can have a psychological impact as well. “Once someone falls, they tend to be fearful of falling,” she explains. “It also encourages them to stay inside, which makes them more likely to fall if they're not changing their environment and challenging their abilities.”

Aging doesn't mean falls are inevitable, however. Experts say there are many things we can do to prevent falls, whether that’s making changes to our environment or strengthening our bodies so that we become more stable on our feet.

Maintain balance

If you want to avoid falls later in life, Dr. Carmen Quatman, an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in geriatric care at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, tells Yahoo Life that it’s important to start “practicing balance” as early as possible, noting that programs like Silver Sneakers, a fitness and wellness program offered at no additional cost to seniors 65 and up on eligible Medicare plans, can teach you exercises on maintaining this skill.

One easy way to start is with a five-minute video from Silver Sneakers. Routines include sidestepping, standing on one foot and calf raises.

Practicing tai chi is another way to improve balance, Wilson notes. One benefit of this Chinese martial art is that it causes you to shift your weight, adjusting your center of gravity. Challenging yourself to do this regularly can improve your balance and coordination overall.

Start strength training

In addition to balance exercises, strength training is important as we age. Building and maintaining muscle will improve your balance and posture, which can help you avoid falls. Plus, Quatman says, “It’s important you don’t lose the ability to get on and off the floor,” noting that if you do fall, you should have the mobility and strength to push yourself back up.

While you may think of strength training as lifting weights, you can also build strength using just your own body weight through simple exercises like planks, pushups and pull-ups. Exercises with resistance bands are another way to incorporate strength training without ever having to pick up a barbell.

Avoid fall traps in your home

If we want to “age in place, in our home,” Wilson says, it’s important to make changes around the house so that we can safely move around — especially as we experience age-related declines in balance, coordination and vision, or are taking medications that could affect these abilities.

These changes can include:

  • Applying bright tape to stairs so it’s easier to see the edge of steps

  • Adding a walk-in shower

  • Putting in a motorized chair for staircases

  • Removing rugs to avoid tripping

  • Adding night-lights for nighttime trips to the bathroom

Leave the house often

Though it may seem counterintuitive, Wilson points out that leaving the house can ultimately reduce your risk of falling. According to Wilson, “Leaving the house boosts your spirits and keeps you engaged in daily life and feeling purposeful,” but that’s not the only reason why it’s beneficial to your overall well-being.

“When you’re out, you come across things like curbs and potholes and people, as well as different surfaces like gravel and pavement and grass. It challenges your balance,” Wilson says. “If you don’t challenge yourself as you age, you lose your ability to navigate these things, which puts you at more risk of falls.”