Memorial Regional Health: Aging and falling — falls among leading cause of injury for adults older than 65
About one in four older adults falls every year — with one fall doubling the chances of falling again.
Falling is one of the leading causes of injury affecting adults older than 65, resulting in more than 3 million emergency department visits per year in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"Many falls do not cause injuries. But one out of five falls does cause a serious injury, such as a broken bone or a head injury," the CDC reports. "These injuries can make it hard for a person to get around, do everyday activities, or live on their own."
Aging is inevitable, and part of the aging process includes the loss of some function in all vital organs, tissues, and cells. This breakdown greatly increases the chances of having a fall.
If you're concerned about falls — either for yourself or a family member — Memorial Regional Health is hosting a fall prevention class Saturday, Sept. 22.
Causes of falls
Gerontologists — people who study aging — report that aging is due to the interaction of many lifelong influences, according to the National Institutes of Health.
"These influences include heredity, environment, culture, diet, exercise and leisure, past illnesses, and many other factors," NIH says.
Poor eyesight or hearing can increase the chances of a fall, as can illness and physical conditions that affect strength and balance, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. Poor lighting and slippery throw rugs around the house can also increase the chances of a trip or slip.
"The side effects of some medicines can upset your balance and make you fall. Medicines for depression, sleep problems, and high blood pressure often cause falls. Some medicines for diabetes and heart conditions can also make you unsteady on your feet," according to the academy. "You may be more likely to fall if you are taking four or more medicines. You are also likely to fall if you have changed your medicine within the past two weeks."
If you're an older adult and you're concerned about falling, it's important to talk with your doctor about things you can do to prevent your risk. A physician can evaluate your risk for falling and review your medications to see if anything is making you dizzy or sleepy, according to the CDC.
Strength and balance exercises, such as Tai Chi, foot taps, head rotations, standing marches, and other muscle-strengthening exercises, can help reduce your risk.
Simple adjustments, such as wearing more sensible shoes and removing hazards around the home, are quick prevention efforts anyone can make. If you need help, ask a family member or friend to check your home for dangers to make your home safer.