Friday, June 10, 2016
Risk Factors Contributing to Falls in the Elderly
We know that falls can be dangerous, and in fact, they are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for older Americans. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) statistics state that one-third of Americans age 65 years and older fall each year. They report that, “every 13 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall; every 20 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall.”
However, there are several risk factors that can be addressed that may help prevent falls. The National Institute of Health (NIH) explains that it is not only chronic health conditions that lead to falls but also safety hazards within or around a senior’s home.
The NIH cites muscle weakness, especially in the legs, along with a lack of flexibility and endurance as a significant risk factor that puts seniors at risk for a fall. Another factor increasing risk is an unsteady gait when walking as well as poor balance, which can be contributed to chronic health problems and lack of exercise. In addition older adults need to be sure to wear safe footwear and should avoid backless shoes or slippers, high-heeled shoes or shoes with smooth soles.
Furthermore, a condition known as postural hypotension (when blood pressure drops too quickly when getting up from a lying down or sitting position) can increase the risk of falling. There are several chronic conditions such as Parkinson’s or diabetes as well as certain medications that can cause this to happen. Also vision problems, sensory difficulties, confusion and medications can lead to dizziness and unsteadiness, and result in a fall.
The NIH advises seniors to report any fall to their doctor as is may be a sign of a “new medical problem that needs attention, such as an infection or a cardiovascular disorder.” It could also be a signal that your medication needs to be adjusted or changed.
This post is intended for informational purposes only. Please contact your health care provider with any questions or concerns you have regarding your health.
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