Prevent falls, a leading killer of older Americans


Falls are the leading cause of accidental death among older Americans. In fact, one in four people over age 65 suffer a fall each year. With an aging baby boomer population, trips to the emergency room for slip-and-fall accidents are becoming increasingly common.

Even though older people are more prone to falls, accidents can happen to anyone. Falls can result in fractures, traumatic brain injuries or worse. But by taking a few simple precautions, you can greatly reduce your chances of injury from a fall.

Watch for hazards at home

For older adults, more than 75 percent of falls happen at home, so it’s a good idea to do all you can to keep your abode safe.

Keep areas like stairways, halls and outdoor pathways well lit. Secure rugs to the floor and do not run wires across places where people walk. If you’re at a high risk for falling, consider installing grab bars near toilets and in showers. Anchor furniture like dressers and entertainment centers to the wall to keep them from tipping. Tipped-over furniture kills nearly 30,000 people a year.

Know medications’ side effects

Many medications – including diuretics, antihistamines, sleeping pills and antidepressants – can cause dizziness and drowsiness. If you are taking a medication that may affect your coordination, do so in a controlled environment where you can walk as little as possible. Also, if falling is a great concern, talk to your doctor about potentially switching to meds that do not include such side effects.

Stay strong

The better shape you are in, the easier it is to avoid falls or avoid injury if you do fall. Keeping your core and leg muscles strong will improve your balance and help you react to catch yourself more quickly if you are falling. Talk to your doctor or a physical therapist about easy exercises you can do to stay agile.

Keep sharp

Hearing and vision loss are directly correlated to an increase risk of falling. See your eye doctor regularly and keep your vision prescription up to date. If hearing is a problem, seek treatment from a specialist.

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