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Hazardous Falls Don't Have to Happen

Experts offer seniors tips on avoiding harmful tumbles

MONDAY, April 13 (HealthDay News) -- Falls are the leading cause of injury among senior citizens in the United States, but there are ways to reduce the risk, says the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

Each year in the U.S., more than 11 million senior citizens suffer a fall, which works out to one out of every three people older than 65. Falls can occur during simple, everyday activities such as getting out of the bathtub or climbing the stairs. In 2006, 368,000 people were diagnosed for hip fractures, the AAOS said.

Medical risk factors for falls include: osteoporosis; walking difficulties; arthritis; irregular heartbeat; blood pressure fluctuation; depression; senility; neurological problems such as stroke, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease; vision or hearing loss; cancer that affects bones; and urinary or bladder dysfunction.

The AAOS offered the following fall prevention tips:

  • Get an annual physical and eye exam, particularly an evaluation of heart and blood pressure problems.
  • Consume adequate dietary calcium and vitamin D.
  • Don't smoke and avoid excessive alcohol consumption.
  • Exercise to improve agility, strength, balance and coordination.
  • Eliminate all tripping hazards in the home and install grab bars, handrails and other safety devices.
  • Wear properly-fitting shoes and nonskid soles.
  • Never walk in your stocking feet.
  • Place a lamp, telephone and flashlight near your bed.
  • Sleep on a bed that is easy to get into and out of.
  • Arrange clothes in your closet so that they're easy to reach.
  • Install a night light along the route between your bedroom and bathroom.
  • Keep all areas of the house clutter-free.
  • Arrange furniture so that you have a clear pathway between rooms.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Aging has more about falls and fractures.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, news release, March 17, 2009

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