Seniors Should Watch Their Step

Falls a major health risk for older Americans

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SATURDAY, March 8, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- If you're an older adult who's blasé about protecting yourself from falls, you could be putting yourself at risk.

Falls are the major cause of injury-related death, injury and hospital admission for older Americans, says the National Safety Council.

One of every three American adults 65 or older falls each year, and falls are the leading cause of injury deaths in that age group, says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In 1998, about 9,600 Americans over the age of 65 died from injuries sustained in a fall, and falls accounted for 87 percent of all fractures for people 65 and older, the CDC says.

The figures show this is a serious health issue for older Americans. The Oklahoma State Department of Health offers some advice on fall prevention for the elderly.

Those tips include:

  • Get regular checks of your eyesight and hearing.

  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist about medication side effects such as dizziness and weakness.

  • Limit alcohol consumption.

  • Be careful when you get up from eating or sleeping.

  • Use a cane or walker to help you maintain your balance.

  • Wear supportive, rubber-soled shoes.

  • Get regular exercise to improve and maintain your muscle strength and tone.

And here are some ideas on how to make your home a safer place:

  • Keep floors clear of clutter and electrical cords.

  • Make sure carpets and rugs are firmly attached to the floor.

  • Rearrange furniture to eliminate obstacles.

  • Use raised seat and safety rails for the toilet.

  • Have grab bars, a chair and non-slip mat in the bathtub.

  • Ensure there are sturdy handrails on both sides of stairways.

  • Paint the top and bottom step on stairways to show contrast with other stairs.

  • Ensure outdoor walks and steps are in good condition.

  • Make sure your living areas are well lit so you can see where you're walking.

More information

To learn more about fall prevention, go to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

SOURCE: Oklahoma State Department of Health; National Safety Council; U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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