What do I need to know about fall risks in older adults?
It’s no secret that as we age, there are certain health concerns that naturally arise. Keeping ourselves in good shape — physically, cognitively, and emotionally — can help keep us actively engaged with the people and the activities that make us feel fulfilled.
One health risk that is widespread across older adults in the U.S. that often gets overlooked is the risk of falling.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), an adult over the age of 65 suffers a fall every second of every day. Falls in this age population are the number one cause of injury and injury death in our country.
Despite this shocking information, falls as a health risk aren’t discussed at the same level as others.
So what can people do in order to protect themselves from this risk? Get educated! The more you know about fall risks in older adults, the more you can take the literal and figurative steps necessary to keep yourself and your loved ones active, engaged, and healthy.
Important fall risk statistics you should know
- Seniors report approximately 36 million falls every year
- Over 30,000 deaths are associated with those 36 million falls
- Hip fractures are one of the most common injuries associated with falls, resulting in 300,000 hospitalizations, and 95% of all hip fractures are due to a fall
- Though both men and women are at risk for falling in older age, women are more susceptible
What makes falling such a risk to people’s health as they age? It doesn’t “just happen.” In fact, health experts don’t see falling as a natural result of aging. So why does this become such a big problem for so many people? Let’s explore the details!
Why are older adults in the United States at risk of falling?
There are a number of different contributing factors as to why the risk of falling can increase as we age. They include:
- Health conditions that can affect your balance, like diabetes, thyroid issues, and heart disease
- Postural hypotension (a drop in blood pressure caused by getting up too quickly)
- Poor eyesight
- Untreated hearing issues
- Hyporeflexia (slow reflexes)
- Loss of muscle mass
- Inner ear issues
- Cognitive impairment and other forms of dementia
- Medication that causes dizziness or lightheadedness
- Footwear, like open back shoes, flip flops, or high heels
- Household hazards, like loose carpeting, rugs, and other obstructions that can cause a person to trip and fall
Another important contributing factor to a person’s increased risk of falling as they age is a fear of falling. Of course, given the prevalence of falling, as well as the repercussions of a fall, it makes sense that this fear should exist.
However, being overly cautious about falls can actually contribute to the factors that increase a person’s risk of falling.
So what should a person do in order to keep themselves healthy and active while avoiding falls? Consider the following.
Tips for avoiding fall risks as you age
Exercise your body
In order to maintain muscle tone, joint flexibility, and even prolong the effects of bone loss, getting exercise — including activities like walking, stair climbing, yoga, resistance and strength training — will contribute to keeping your body healthy and reduce your risk of falls. Speak with your primary physician in order to understand what options are best for you.
Exercise your mind
Reading books, playing puzzle games, and maintaining healthy relationships with others will help keep your mind active, all of which can contribute to brain health, as well as make you feel more fulfilled on an emotional level.
Wear appropriate footwear
We’re not here to hinder your sense of style, but we do want to remind you that your safety comes first. Facing icy, snowy conditions? Maybe platforms aren’t the right choice!
Similarly, wearing backless shoes indoors, while convenient to get on and off, aren’t always the best choice if you’re not steady on your feet.
Remove the fall risks from your home
Your home should be comfortable and safe. If you have loose carpeting, throw rugs that aren’t laid smoothly, and other items that can be a trip hazard, then you’re only increasing the risk of danger in your home. Work with a loved one to remove these hazards and make your home safer.
Imbibe in moderation
Too much alcohol can make you feel impaired, affecting your balance and your judgment. Enjoy yourself, but be careful!
Get your eyes and ears checked!
Your eyesight and hearing are critical factors in reducing your risk of falls. Make sure that you’re getting annual eye exams, and if you haven’t already started, see an audiologist every year to get your hearing tested.
At Colorado Ear Care, we offer comprehensive hearing exams, as well as a wide range of tests related to dizziness and balance disorders.
Our goal is to give you the best care possible, and we do so by going above and beyond in our testing, treatment, and personalized approach to care.
If you have concerns about the risk of falls, either for yourself or for a loved one, then we want to help you ease your mind. Contact us today for your appointment!