An Increasing Number of Older Americans Suffering From Falls: Decreasing the Risk

Every year millions of adults over the age of 65 fall, which can cause all types of injuries from moderate to severe, including hip fractures and head traumas, increasing the risk of early death, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

A recent article published in the New York Times, discussed this serious issue, stating that more and more older Americans are suffering from falls, sometimes fatally. Even more alarming than the increasing number of falls in the over-65 group, is that researchers say bad falls can be linked to the increasing prevalence of conditions like diabetes, stroke, Parkinson’s, and heart disease, since in many cases the medications prescribed to treat these diseases actually increase the risk of falling.

The good news is that falls are largely preventable.

Regular exercise is essential, because if you do fall and are in good physical condition, you’re less likely to be injured, advises Judy A. Stevens, an epidemiologist at the CDC.

Stevens recommends regular exercise classes, particularly those that include balance drills, like standing on one foot, or working with Bosu balls, the squishy hemispheres seen at gyms.

Practicing tai chi on a regular basis can also help. It involves very slow, purposeful movements in coordination with breathing and muscle activity, which in turn affects respiration, balance and gait. Integrating balance and strength poses into daily tasks, like standing on one foot while brushing your teeth, can also help.

Yoga is also quite effective as it improves balance.

Staying hydrated, by drinking plenty of water throughout the day helps to prevent dizziness which could cause one to fall.

Medications are a big factor in falls for seniors. Psychotropic drugs like antidepressants, antipsychotics and benzodiazepines come with a significant risk as they can directly affect your balance, notes Yale geriatrician Dr. Mary Tinetti.

If you haven’t been exercising on a regular basis, doing so could kill two birds with one stone, as physical activity has been shown to be as effective, or even more so, than antidepressants, without the long list of side effects, including dizziness.

fallBlood pressure medications, which are reportedly used by 70 percent of those who are over 70, can cause dizziness when blood pressure drops too much. It’s also said to be a frequent culprit in falls. In fact, one study found that among older people with hypertension, the risk of taking a serious fall leading to injuries like fractured bones or brain injuries, was significantly higher for those who took hypertension meds compared to those who didn’t.

Sleep medications have also been implicated in falls.

The bottom line is, the healthier lifestyle you lead and the fewer medications you take, the more you can reduce the risk of falling.

-The Alternative Daily


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