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Falls Spell Health Danger for Elderly

But simple steps can keep fractures at bay, experts say

SUNDAY, Oct. 29, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- A simple slip in the tub or on a loose mat can be a health disaster for elderly Americans, experts say.

Each year, more than 1.6 million seniors are treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms for fall-related injuries caused by incidents such as slipping on a wet bathroom floor, loss of balance on stairs, or tripping on a throw rug, according to the U.S. National Institute on Aging (NIA).

Among older adults in the United States, falls are the leading cause of fractures, hospital admissions for trauma, loss of independence, and injury-related deaths.

But falls are not an unavoidable part of aging, the NIA says. Information about the risks of falling and how to prevent falls was recently added to the NIHSeniorHealth Web site. There's advice about eliminating hazards at home, exercising, and other lifestyle changes that can reduce the risk of falls.

The Web site is a joint effort of the NIA and the National Library of Medicine. Both are part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

"Falls can have devastating effects in older people," Dr. Richard J. Hodes, NIA director, said in a prepared statement.

In older people, even a simple fall can cause a serious fracture of the arm, hand, ankle or hip. For example, only about half of older adults who are hospitalized for a broken hip return home or are able to live on their own after the injury.

More information

Here's where you can find NIHSeniorHealth.

SOURCE: U.S. National Institute on Aging/U.S. National Institutes of Health, news release, Oct. 16, 2006
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