Falls are a bigger medical problem than many people realize. They account for millions of visits to emergency rooms each year and are the second-leading cause of accidental death in homes and communities.
Of course, falls can be a risk among all age groups, but they are particularly problematic among the elderly. People 65 and older are four times more likely to die from a fall than all other age groups. Often that's because of medical conditions or medications, which make the elderly more prone to falling.
In addition, up to 30 percent of people who fall suffer moderate to severe injuries, including lacerations, fractures and head traumas. The most common fractures are of the spine, hip, forearm, leg, ankle, pelvis, upper arm and hand.
Fall Prevention Tips
A number of steps can help minimize the risk of falling -- or perhaps minimize the damage that will occur during a fall. The best step is to take great care to make your home as safe as possible. This includes removing as many tripping hazards as possible: items like electrical and phone cords, loose rugs and mats as well as clothes, toys, boxes and shoes that are on the floor or the stairs.
Good lighting is also a key feature for preventing falls in homes, so upgrade or add lighting where needed. Any surface with an incline, like stairs or a ramp, is a risk as well, so add railings to these areas wherever possible. Slipping can also cause falls so the best bet here is to clean up any spills as soon as possible. Anyone who's prone to falls should also choose slip-resistant footwear.
Staying strong and healthy also helps people, especially the elderly, be less prone to falls. Regular exercise can contribute to this and also help make people more able to maintain their balance as they age. Many medications can increase the risk for falling, so anyone's who's fallen or is worried about falling should review all prescriptions with their doctor. Regular eye appointments are also a good idea. Finally, get plenty of vitamin D and calcium to preserve bone health. Anyone with osteoporosis should be under the care of doctor to prevent potential complications from a fall.
SOURCES: National Safety Council, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Hip fractures are more likely to follow indoor falls in warm weather, study finds
Geriatrics specialist offers tips to avoid injuries
Draft recommendations from influential U.S. panel now await public review
But study also found those who had quit didn't suffer same fate
What you should look for in the shoe store
But study found proper dose of psychiatric drugs might erase that danger
And newer drugs like Ambien, Lunesta are no safer in this regard, review found
Exercise helps improve balance and age-related muscle loss, doctor says
Cannabidiol appears to lessen 'drop seizures' for some Lennox-Gastaut syndrome patients, study finds
Psychiatrist cautions doctors and patients to consider risks and benefits of each drug
Any surfaces that look wet and dark are probably icy, safety experts say
Study finds higher rate of hospital admissions for heart attack, chest pain 2 days after storm
Symptoms of this common injury
The sedentary are most at risk for injury, doctors say
Top 5 diseases, conditions accounted for $437 billion in 2013
Physical activity helps improve gait and balance, research review finds
Study found 41 percent of meds that can increase drowsiness were set too high for seniors, linked to accidents
Warning signs such as exhaustion increase the risk for bad outcomes, researchers find
They cause millions of injuries and soaring health care costs, CDC report shows
Inactivity boosts their risk for falls, broken bones, serious disease and early death, CDC warns
What you can do to remain upright
Even in first trimester, center of mass shifts forward, research shows
Some eyeglasses may cause blurry vision, so seniors need to watch their step, researchers say
Expert advice on how seniors can lower their risk
Year-long CDC study finds 1.3 million people over 65 with poor eyesight fell at least once
Study of veterans with irregular heartbeat found one-third suffered such incidents while on the drug
Researchers find falls, broken bones, bed sores more likely in older patients
But treatments to improve strength, balance may guard against injuries, disability, researchers say
Males made greater gains than women, study says
Try footwear with good traction and walking carefully with low center of gravity, expert suggests
Symptoms associated with falls, researchers say
Those who took rivastigmine in study were 45 percent less likely to have an accident
To avoid injury, pedestrians should 'engage with their surroundings,' surgeon says
Slips and falls from ladders can result in serious foot and ankle injuries
And cost of treatment in hospitals has jumped in the past decade, researchers add
Take special care when using ladders, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons says
Illness can lower blood pressure, lead to dizziness, researchers say
Nearly one-quarter had trouble getting out of hospital bed, walking 10 feet and getting back in bed
Homebound elderly might benefit from supplementation, research suggests
Falls are the major cause among the elderly, researchers say
Parents should be particularly careful about windows