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Toll-Free Hotline to Help Seniors Avoid Falls

National outreach to stress importance of physical activities to improve balance

SUNDAY, Feb. 3 (HealthDay News) -- In the United States, about one in three seniors over age 65, and almost one in two over age 80, will fall at least once this year -- in some cases, leading to serious disability or even death.

But ways for seniors to improve their balance and reduce their risk of falls are expected to be discussed on an American Physical Therapy Association-sponsored national toll-free hotline on Friday, Feb. 8, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Physical therapists will answer questions about risk factors for falling, how the body maintains its balance, and how older adults can improve their balance and reduce their risk of falling. The hotline number is 1-877-633-3278.

There are a number of fall risk factors, including: being older; being female; problems with balance or walking; leg or trunk weakness; dementia; a past history of falls; use of a walking device; being on more than four medications at the same time; and preexisting medical conditions such as stroke, diabetes and Parkinson's disease.

Staying physically active as you age is critical in helping prevent falls, said Roberta Newton, a professor in the physical therapy department at Temple University in Philadelphia.

"Fifty percent of older adults think that if they decrease their physical activity level, they will have less chance of falling. But, in reality, the exact opposite is true," Newton said in a prepared statement.

Gardening, line dancing and yoga are among the activities that can help older adults improve balance and movement.

"We see significant improvement not only in patients' balance, but also with their confidence levels, an awareness of body alignment, and a reduced fear of falling," Newton said.

More information

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

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: American Physical Therapy Association, news release, January 2008

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