Regular exercise can keep seniors from falling
Simple workouts may be the best protection against falls in older people, a recent study says. Researchers found that exercises that include some balance and strength training for seniors effectively reduced falls.
As the U.S. population ages, more seniors are experiencing head trauma, hip fractures and even death from accidental falls.
In fact, falls are the leading cause of injury death among those 65 or older. In 2009, more than 20,000 older adults died from fall injuries, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In 2010, more than 2 million older adults were treated in emergency departments for nonfatal falls. More than 600,000 of these patients were hospitalized, the CDC reported.
Falls are not only traumatic for seniors and their families, but they are also costly. In 2010, the direct medical cost of falls was almost $30 billion.
Leading a sedentary and inactive lifestyle weakens the body and makes falling more likely, health experts say. Working to build muscle, stamina and balance can go a long way to keep seniors on their feet.
“Lifting weights, or doing any exercise that uses body weight for resistance, can build muscle and increase stability in older adults,” says Dr. Tony Hampton of the Advocate Medical Group. “Seniors should consider gardening and other activities that keep the body limber and in motion as a prevention against falls. Exercises, such as Yoga or Tai Chi, can be especially helpful.”
Beyond physical conditioning, there are dozens of other ways to prevent falls, Hampton says.
“Ask your doctor to review your medications to identify medicines that may cause side effects or interactions, such as dizziness or drowsiness,” Hampton said. “It’s also important to have an annual eye exam to make sure your eyeglass or contact lens prescription is up to date.”
The CDC also recommends making homes safer by reducing hazards. This could mean adding grab bars inside and outside the tub or shower and next to the toilet, adding railings on both sides of stairways and improving the lighting.
“Seniors should always check with their doctors before beginning a regular exercise program,” Hampton added.
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