Each year, approximately one third of all senior adults in the U.S. fall, and the likelihood of their falling increases substantially with each year of age. Nearly 16,000 people 65 years of age or older died as a result of injuries from falls in 2005 alone. The number of older adults who fall without injury or who don’t seek medical care is unknown. These findings were recently published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
To estimate how frequently a wide range of falls normally occurs among U.S. seniors, CDC researchers analyzed 2006 fall injury data. Among their findings were the following:
"No difference existed in the percentage of men and women who reported falling in the previous three months, but about 36 percent of women reported injuries compared to about 25 percent of men.
American Indian/Alaska Natives reported the highest percentage of falls (28 percent).
About 30 percent of people who fell reported sustaining an injury that led them to visit a health care provider or restrict their activity for at least a day."
Authors of the report note that as the population ages, the nationwide incidence of falls is projected to rise.
Falls are a leading cause of injury and death among the elderly, and most falls tend to occur in or around the home. The CDC offers the following tips for preventing senior falls:
"1. Begin a regular exercise program.
Exercise is one of the most important ways to reduce your chances of falling. It makes you stronger and helps you feel better. Exercises that improve balance and coordination (like Tai Chi) are the most helpful.
Lack of exercise leads to weakness and increases your chances of falling.
Ask your doctor or health care worker about the best type of exercise program for you.
2. Make your home safer.
About half of all falls happen at home. To make your home safer:
- Remove things you can trip over (such as papers, books, clothes, and shoes) from stairs and places where you walk.
- Remove small throw rugs or use double-sided tape to keep the rugs from slipping.
- Keep items you use often in cabinets you can reach easily without using a step stool.
- Have grab bars put in next to your toilet and in the tub or shower.
- Use non-slip mats in the bathtub and on shower floors.
- Improve the lighting in your home. As you get older, you need brighter lights to see well. Lamp shades or frosted bulbs can reduce glare.
- Have handrails and lights put in on all staircases.
- Wear shoes that give good support and have thin non-slip soles. Avoid wearing slippers and athletic shoes with deep treads.
3. Have your health care provider review your medicines.
Have your doctor or pharmacist look at all the medicines you take (including ones that don’t need prescriptions such as cold medicines). As you get older, the way some medicines work in your body can change. Some medicines, or combinations of medicines, can make you drowsy or light-headed which can lead to a fall.
4. Have your vision checked.
Have your eyes checked by an eye doctor. You may be wearing the wrong glasses or have a condition such as glaucoma or cataracts that limits your vision. Poor vision can increase your chances of falling."
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