The Big Number: About 36 million people 65 and older suffer a fall each year – The Washington Post

By Linda Searing,

Each year, about 36 million people 65 and older experience a fall, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 1 in 5 of those falls causes a serious injury, such as a head injury or a broken bone — usually to the wrist, arm, ankle or hip. Hip fractures alone result in hospitalization for 300,000 older Americans annually, and more than 95 percent of those fractures are due to falls. As for head injuries, falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injury. The CDC says that falls are the leading cause of not only injury among older people but also injury-related deaths, with more than 32,000 people in this age group dying each year because of a fall. Although people of any age can and do fall, risk rises with age. Still, falling is not considered an inevitable result of aging, according to the National Council on Aging. Factors that contribute to higher risk for older people include muscle weakness, balance issues, vision problems, wearing ill-fitting or slippery-soled shoes and various home hazards, from poor lighting to cluttered floors and more. In addition, medications that may cause a person to become dizzy or sleepy increase the risk for falling, and this includes medications commonly taken for high blood pressure, allergies, sleep problems, anxiety or depression. To prevent falls, health experts urge older people to have their doctor or pharmacist evaluate their medications for possible falling risks, have their vision checked annually and eyewear updated if needed, and make their home safer by keeping floors clutter free, adding grab bars in the bathroom and making sure all staircases have handrails and are well lit. Also, they are advised to regularly do exercise that will strengthen their legs and improve balance.

— Linda Searing

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