Why do Falls Happen? (1. Drugs + Alcohol)

Why do Falls Happen? (13/5/15 – Drugs and Alcohol)

Falls happen for several reasons. Some of these are to do with our own body such as poor balance and some causes are outside ourselves such as slippery surfaces. Some of these causes are within our control and we can do something about them. These are the ones I’m going to concentrate on here.

It is useful to look at both causes for falls and risk factors. So what is the difference? Causes are factors mostly responsible for the fall, whereas risk factors don’t cause a fall but make one more likely to happen. Some of both causes and risk factors are controllable by us so I’ll discuss both – but first the CAUSES…..

Most causes can be categorised using the acronym DAME. D = Drugs and alcohol. A= age related physiological changes. M=Medical. E= Environment


Drugs and Alcohol: many prescribed drugs can contribute to poor postural stability and higher risk of falling especially sleeping tablets, antidepressants, antipsychotics, topical eye medications, diuretics (water tablets), vasodilators – for conditions like high blood pressure. If you are on 4 or more medications of any type you are at higher risk of a fall (NICE 2004). If you are on medications it’s a good idea to keep a list of them with details of what they are for, when prescribed etc. you can download a form here that you can use. Keep this list handy and bring it with you on any visit to any health practitioner. It’s also a good idea to have your medications reviewed regularly – so mention this to your GP. Let your exercise instructor know of any changes in your medications.


Heavy drinkers are more likely to fall for obvious reasons. In addition to the  immediate effects of alcohol on balance there can be long term effects. The cerebellum of the brain can be damaged resulting in muscle coordination problems. http://m.livescience.com/16091-alcoholics-long-term-balance-problems.html



There are many different definitions of what constitutes “a heavy drinker” but all the definitions are scarily low levels of drinking by most people’s standards, e.g more than 4 drinks in one day, occurring more than 5 times in last month. So many of us might unknown to ourselves be “heavy” drinkers” and should really try to moderate for all kinds of reasons.



The recommended weekly alcohol limits for both men and women have been cut by Irish experts.

It is now recommended that men should not drink more than 17 alcohol units over a week. Previously, the limit had been set at 21 units.

Women should not consume more than 11 units of alcohol over a week. The limit was previously 14.

A unit of alcohol is a “rough measure of the drink amount that will provide about 10g of alcohol.

For instance, a half pint of beer, a pub measure of spirits and a small glass of wine,” according to guidelines contained in new document from the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI).

– See more at: http://alcoholireland.ie/home_news/health-chiefs-cut-limits-on-safe-drinking/#sthash.URI0Lky6.dpuf


For those of us who like a glass of wine it’s worth noting that a bottle contains approx 10 units, so if you’re not getting 10 servings out of your bottle – your glass is too big and you’re consuming more units than you think. Use small wine glasses, and always check the alcohol % of your wine. I think 10-12% is high enough for white wine and no higher than 13% for red. The wine is a better wine if it’s not relying on high alcohol and sugars for taste. If you find any really good but low alcohol wines let me know.

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