Getting older increases the chance of lots of health problems, such as heart disease, dementia and diabetes. And here’s another major health risk in our golden years: falls. One in 4 people age 65 or older suffers a fall each year, and 3 million wind up in the emergency room for taking a spill. Why is falling so common once we reach a certain age?
It’s typically due to a number of factors. “Side effects from prescription medications can cause drowsiness and dizziness, resulting in falls,” says Tim Schuckers, a physical therapist based in Portland, Oregon. “Gradual muscle weakness in the lower legs from sedentary lifestyles can also result in legs giving way easily when walking and standing.”
Other fall causes can include:
- Underlying conditions, such as arthritis or neuropathy (pain, numbness or tingling in the extremities that makes it hard to sense the ground).
- Balance problems.
- Declining reaction times.
- Vision problems.
- Hearing loss.
- Environmental hazards, such as floor clutter, throw rugs or slippery bathroom floor tiles.
Fall consequences are alarming. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that 1 in 5 falls results in a serious injury, such as a broken hip or traumatic head injury. Falls also cause 32,000 older adult deaths every year.
So what can you do to prevent falls in older adults? You’ll need to talk to your doctor about treating underlying conditions. You may need an eye exam or a hearing test. You’ll need to remove fall hazards in your home. And you’ll have to start a regular exercise program.