Most of us routinely take certain steps to protect ourselves from potential health problems, like washing hands and getting vaccinations. Experts recommend that we also take measures to protect themselves against a major threat to a healthy life, especially for people over 65: falling.
Falls are the leading cause of injury-related death for people over 65. Nearly 24,000 people in that age group died after a fall in 2012, the most recent year for which fatality numbers are available — almost double the number 10 years earlier. And more than 2.4 million people over 65 were treated in emergency departments for injuries from falls, an increase of 50 percent (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention).
In a New York Times article that surveyed physicians working with people at high risk of falls, one major recommendation was the same as that given for reducing many other health risks: regular exercise. Not only does it help prevent falls, but it can help minimize injuries if a fall does occur. Exercise that includes balance work is especially recommended, such as tai chi.
“If only we could put tai chi in a pill,” said Dr. Lewis A. Lipsitz, a professor of medicine at Harvard and a vice president of academic medicine at Hebrew SeniorLife, where he has seen marked improvement resulting from tai chi programs in two facilities.
Other recommendations from doctors who work with people at high risk for falls:
- Stay hydrated, especially on hot days or if you have low blood pressure, which can cause dizziness.
- Discuss your medications with your physician to eliminate medications that might not be necessary, or reduce dosages if possible. People on multiple medications can be at especially high risk of falling.
- Have their eyes checked at least once a year and wear single-vision glasses while out on walks. A study published in the British Medical Journal found that bifocal and progressive lenses can cause missteps.
Prevention 1st suggests these additional simple, effective steps to reduce falls:
- Remove scatter rugs and clutter that can be tripping hazards.
- Install handrails on stairs, and have adequate lighting at the top and bottom of stairs.
- Wipe up spills immediately.
Find more ways to protect yourself and your loved ones from falls on this website.