At any age, falling can lead to injury, sometimes severe. We all know environmental risks for falls—ice in the winter, slippery rain surfaces and strong winds. But there are risks in your own home you may be overlooking.

For example, did you know more than 80,000 people a year are sent to the hospital for falls caused by pets? The following tips can help you stay upright and avoid costly and painful trips to the hospital.

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Shoveling Snow: Frigid temperatures can pose dangers to the heart. “Breathing cold air can constrict the blood vessels and therefore increase the pressure, causing clots to form,” according to the American Red Cross. If your loved one has a cardiac condition, ask them to think twice about shoveling snow in extreme cold to avoid causing undue strain. For those who live in snow-prone areas, Chicago-based Advocate Health Care created this video about snow shoveling safety.

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Overindulgence: Cold weather can drive us to high-calorie comfort food. But moderation is a year-round task. Remember that excessive caloric intake can lead to greater stress on you or your loved one’s heart. Enjoy your favorite dishes, but eat normal portion sizes and watch alcohol consumption. It is especially important for individuals with heart failure to be mindful of sodium intake. Remind your loved one to keep track of ingredients and calories if advised by their doctor. Ask the cook about salt content if you dine out or eat in someone else’s home. Avoid sauces and gravies. Finally, don’t ditch your exercise routine.

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Emotional stress: Financial expenses and decompressing from time spent with family over the holidays can contribute to increased stress for caregivers. Keep seasonal stress in check. Know when to give yourself a break, and keep expectations reasonable.



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Car stranding: Many people in the U.S. need to be prepared in case their car breaks down in dangerously cold temperatures. The CDC recommends maintaining your car by ensuring the antifreeze level is correct and replacing tires with snow tires if necessary. Store blankets, food, a flashlight and booster cables in your trunk. Never be without a charged phone or car-equipped charger. If you are caregiving for someone who drives, make sure they follow the same preparations.

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Carbon monoxide: At least 430 people die each year from carbon monoxide poisoning, according to the CDC, and most people die before they notice symptoms. Fortunately, carbon monoxide deaths are completely preventable. Be sure to install carbon monoxide detectors and change the batteries every six months. Do not rely on an alternative power source that produces poisonous levels of carbon monoxide during a power outage. Never use an oven or gas range to heat a home. Do not warm yourself in a running car in a garage, and run a generator in an enclosed space only if the equipment is professionally vented and installed.

By Margaret Schmidt