Diabetes and Falling Down

Posted on: 14/11/2022

Diabetes is a chronic condition, with around 3.9 million people currently living with a diagnosis of diabetes in the UK. It is estimated that there a further million people are living with diabetes who have yet to be diagnosed, bringing the total up to more than 4.8 million.

Having diabetes increases the risk of falling because the condition can cause physical impairments that may make you less steady on your feet. According to one study, a person with diabetes who is older than 65 is 17 times more likely to suffer a fall than a younger man or woman who doesn’t have diabetes.

What is Diabetes? 

Diabetes is a lifelong condition that causes a person's blood sugar level to become too high.

There are two main types of diabetes:

  • Type 1 diabetes – where the body's immune system attacks and destroys the cells that produce insulin
  • Type 2 diabetes – where the body does not produce enough insulin or the body's cells do not react to insulin

Type 2 diabetes is far more common than type 1. In the UK, around 90% of all adults with diabetes have type 2.

How does having diabetes increase the likelihood of having a fall?

There are many complications associated with the condition, and a handful contribute toward diabetic fall risk:  

  • Hypoglycemia

Research indicates that falls are the most significant consequences caused by hypoglycaemia episodes, in which blood sugar drops rapidly, causing light-headedness or fainting.

  • Cardiovascular disease, heart attack and stroke

Older people with cardiovascular issues are 29% more likely to fall and require a trip to the hospital, due in part to light-headedness and dizziness, dramatic changes in heart rate or blood pressure or diminished alertness.

  • Blindness

Reduced vision makes it hard to see impediments like stairs, cords and changes in grade that cause falls.

  • Peripheral neuropathy

Numbness in the extremities can produce changes in gait, impact posture and affect balance, making diabetics more likely to take a tumble. The NIH estimates that 60-70% of patients have some form of diabetic neuropathy.

How to Manage Diabetes and Falling Down

The good news is that many complications of diabetes – and the fall risk associated with them – can be avoided.

  • Keep an eye on your blood glucose levels

Regularly monitor and manage blood glucose levels, which reduces the likelihood of developing neuropathy and hypo/hyperglycaemia.

  • Stay physically active

Physical exercise helps lower your blood sugar level. You should aim for 2.5 hours of activity a week. You can be active anywhere as long as what you're doing gets you out of breath. This could be fast walking, climbing stairs or doing more strenuous housework or gardening.

  • Eat well

There's nothing you cannot eat if you have type 2 diabetes, but you'll have to limit certain foods.

It is recommended by the NHS to:

  1. Eat a wide range of foods – including fruit, vegetables and some starchy foods like pasta
  2. Keep sugar, fat and salt to a minimum
  3. Eat breakfast, lunch and dinner every day – do not skip meals
  • Get regular check-ups

It’s important to see your GP on a regular basis for blood tests and ongoing monitoring. It is also important to visit your optician to evaluate your eye health.

  • Use a personal alarm device

Personal alarm devices provide access to help with the press of a button, or automatically when a fall is detected – even if the button is never pressed. 

At Progress Lifeline we provide telecare solutions which can benefit a person living with diabetes. A personal lifeline alarm provides access to help with the press of a button. We also have a falls detector which automatically alerts our alarm response centre when a fall is detected – even if the button is never pressed.

To enquire about the Progress Lifeline service or packages we offer, call us today on 03333 204 999 or email lifeline@progressgroup.org.uk