Each year as the weather turns icy, we return to one major health topic for older adults, avoiding a fall. How big is the risk actually, though?
Truth in Numbers
No matter how healthy you are, falling is a real risk. About 1 out of 3 adults age 65 or older falls each year, but less than half of those talk to their doctors about it.
Sure, you might think, but everyone falls once in a while, right? Kids fall all the time! But your mom falling could be a lot more serious than your toddler. Falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries in older adults.
In 2013, 2.5 million people were treated for nonfatal falls, and 734,000 of those had to be hospitalized. And in 2012, the medical costs from falls reached $30 billion.
They cause the most broken bones, traumatic brain injuries, and over 95% of hip fractures in older adults. And women are twice as likely as men to break a bone.
What Causes A Fall
Icy and slippery weather is of course a big reason that falls happen, but winter isn’t the only time to protect yourself and your loved ones.
Seeing is an essential part of most of our days, but as you age and your vision gets worse, it can increase your risk of falling. If you can’t see the danger, it’s harder to avoid it.
Some medications, both prescription and over-the-counter can cause side effects, like dizziness and drowsiness, that can make it more likely you’ll take a tumble.
Dangers in your homes, like tripping hazards, stairs, and slippery bathtubs, are a huge risk.
And many people who fall once are afraid of falling again and what could happen if they do. This leads them to limit their activities, lowering their mobility and fitness, which can actually increase their chances of falling and of getting hurt.
A recent study also found that many people’s falls are because of an infection, which can cause low blood pressure, which can make you feel dizzy or lightheaded. This can both lead to your fall, or make you confused about what happened afterwards.
There are ways to help stop falls before they happen:
Get your eyes checked each year, and always keep your glasses prescription as up to date as possible.
Ask your doctor to review all your meds, and see if there are other options for any drugs that might be increasing your risk of falling.
Fall-proof your home. Adding grab bars in the bathroom and railings to stairs and even improving the lighting in your home can make a huge difference.
Get enough calcium and Vitamin D from foods like dairy, soy milk, orange juice, and salmon, or take a regular supplement.
Get tested for osteoporosis.
Remove clutter. A messy house can actually increase your chance of falling at home. Learn more.
Get active! There are great options and resources for getting healthy at any age.
- Tai Chi is especially helpful for improving your balance and leg strength. Use this Tai Chi Fall Prevention Toolkit to get started now.
- Try walking outside with friends or family.
- Weight bearing exercises can lower your chance of hip fractures.
- Water aerobics is a great way to move without stressing your joints.
- Moving to the beat and changing to a rhythm are shown to reduce falls. Get dancing at your local senior center’s events, take lessons, or just let loose at home.
- We want to help, too. Our Medicare members have access to the SilverSneakers® fitness program to help you get fit at a gym or in your home. Our members also get discounts at certain fitness locations.
All statistics are from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).