Getting older increases the risk of many health problems, such as heart disease, dementia and diabetes. And here comes another major health risk in our golden age: falls. One in four people aged 65 or over falls each year and 3 million end up in the emergency room for a spill. Why are falls so common after a certain age?
This is usually due to a number of factors. “Side effects from prescription drugs can cause drowsiness and dizziness, leading to falls,” says Tim Schuckers, a physical therapist based in Portland, Oregon. “Progressive muscle weakness in the lower legs due to a sedentary lifestyle can also cause the legs to bend easily when walking and standing.”
Other causes of falling can include:
- Underlying conditions, such as arthritis or neuropathy (pain, numbness, or tingling in the extremities that make it difficult to find the floor).
- Balance problems.
- Reduced reaction times.
- Vision problems.
- Hearing loss.
- Environmental hazards, such as floor clutter, carpets or slippery bathroom floor tiles.
The consequences of falls are alarming. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note that 1 in 5 falls results in a serious injury, such as a broken hip or head trauma. Falls also cause 32,000 senior deaths each year.
So what can you do to prevent falls in older adults? You will need to talk to your doctor about treating any underlying conditions. You may need an eye exam or a hearing test. You will need to eliminate fall hazards in your home. And you will need to start a regular exercise program.