Senior fall fatalities nearly double since 2000
According to the report, published in the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s NCHS Data Brief, for every 100,000 seniors, 57 died due to fall-related injuries in 2013 compared to about 30 seniors in 2000.
“I suspect the increase in falls has more to do with the fact that more individuals are simply living longer, thus increasing the chance for falling,” says Dr. Christopher Hughes, Advocate Medical Group family medicine physician at Advocate Eureka Hospital in Eureka, Ill. “However, there is no doubt within primary care and geriatrics, a more focused approach on preventing falls is needed.”
The NCHS reported that about 33 percent of seniors over 65 fall annually.
“The aging process decreases muscle strength, coordination and balance, as well as compromising a host of other areas, such as vision and cognitive abilities – all of which generally lead to increased falls,” Dr. Hughes says.
Dr. Hughes recommends focusing on the following to reduce fall risks:
- Exercise – Studies have shown that general exercise reduces the risk of falls, as well as the risk of injury after a fall. Exercise programs that focus on balance are most effective.
- See your doctor regularly – Physicians can monitor patients’ medications and identify those that may increase the potential for falls. They can also evaluate fall risks by keeping tabs on their patients’ blood pressure, cardiovascular health, visual acuity, and neurologic and cognitive abilities.
- Vitamin D – Vitamin D supplementation may also help in preventing falls as it may improve bone mineral density and muscle function. Patients should talk with their doctors about what they feel is an appropriate dose.
- Home safety interventions – Proper installation of stair handrails, bathroom grab rails, nonslip bath mats and other fall prevention measures can make a major difference in households where falls are most likely.
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