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Falls Are Leading Cause of Injury to Seniors

But orthopedists say a home safety review could cut odds of fractures in those over 65

SUNDAY, Nov. 2 (HealthDay News) -- Former first lady Nancy Reagan and Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's grandmother have suffered recent pelvic and hip injuries. And on Friday, author Studs Terkel died, following reports that a fall two weeks ago had hastened his decline.

Such news, experts say, should be a reminder to all about the need to help the elderly protect themselves against their increased risk of falls and bone injuries.

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, one in every three Americans older than 65 experiences a fall, making it the leading cause of injuries to seniors.

To help prevent falls and bone fractures, the academy recommends that seniors:

  • Have an annual physical and eye examination. Make sure any cardiac and blood pressure problems are fully evaluated.
  • Consume a diet with adequate dietary calcium and vitamin D for good bone health. Do not smoke, and avoid excessive use of alcohol.
  • Participate in an exercise program to maintain agility, strength, balance, and coordination.
  • Maintain a clutter-free home with clear walking paths through rooms. Eliminate tripping hazards and install grab bars, handrails and other safety devices in appropriate areas, such as bathrooms and bedrooms.
  • Wear properly fitting shoes with nonskid soles. Never walk about with only socks or stockings on your feet.
  • Have adequate lighting in the home. Use nightlights between bedrooms and bathrooms. Make sure light switches are easily accessible by doorways.

More information

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons has more about hip fractures and falls prevention.

-- Kevin McKeever

SOURCE: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, news release, Oct. 22, 2008

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