Fall Prevention in Older Adults

By June 29, 2024Health Tips

We have a large population of adults aged 65 years and older in the U.S. Falls are a significant threat to their health and well-being. Falls can reduce an older person’s ability to remain independent. This is something we all should think about for ourselves (now or as we get older) or for our older parents or grandparents who might need the information now.

How common are falls in older adults?
Here are some facts regarding falls among adults 65 and older:
  • Fall Prevention in Older AdultsFalls are the leading cause of injury in this age group.
  • Falls caused over 38,000 deaths in 2021 in this age group.
  • In 2021, there were nearly 3 million emergency department visits for older adult falls.
  • More than 14 million older adults report falling every year, which is about one in four people in this age group.
  • For older adults, a broken bone from a fall can be the start of more serious health problems and can lead to long-term disability.
What are the risk factors for falling in this age group?
  • Having a prior fall
  • Problems with your senses – such as poor eyesight or hearing loss
  • Neurologic problems, such as neuropathy
  • Vascular problems such as arterial blockages or blood pressure that drops when you stand up, which can lead to dizziness or numbness in your feet
  • Conditions that cause rushed movement to the bathroom
  • Cognitive impairment, including mild cognitive impairment or dementia
  • Certain medications
  • Age-related loss of muscle mass
  • Unsafe footwear, such as backless shoes or high heels
  • Painful foot conditions
  • Safety hazards in the home or community environment
  • Alcohol or drug use
What steps can be taken to help prevent falls?
The number one recommendation for fall prevention is exercise! This is at the top on the list for a reason! Many research studies have been done which show that regular exercise is associated with a significant reduction in the number of falls in older adults. Regular exercise provides many benefits, including:
  • Improves muscle strength
  • Improves flexibility of your joints, tendons, and ligaments.
  • Improves balance.
  • Weight-bearing exercise can slow bone loss associated with aging or osteoporosis (a disease that weakens bones).
What kind of exercise should you do?
Talk with your doctor before you start an exercise program and come up with an exercise plan that is right for you. Here are some possible exercises that you might consider doing, maybe even some from each group:
  • Try some mild weight-bearing activities, such as a walking program.
  • Do some balance and strength exercises such as Yoga, Pilates, or tai chi.
  • You can also try lifting light weights (as low as 1 to 10 pounds) or using resistance bands to build strength.
  • Endurance activities, such as walking, swimming, biking.
Next week, we will continue our discussion with more tips for preventing falls along with information about what to do if you fall.
If you have any questions about fall prevention in older adults, please log into your account and send us your question. We are here to help.

Dr. Anita Bennett MD – Health Tip Content Editor

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