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Are you at risk for having falls?

MARY ELKO
Health Matters

Falls are the leading cause of injury death for older Americans. Falls threaten seniors’ safety and independence and generate enormous economic and personal costs.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
One-third of Americans aged 65+ falls each year.
Every 15 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall; every 29 minutes, an older adult dies following a fall.
Falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of nonfatal trauma-related hospital admissions among older adults.
Falls result in more than 2.3 million fall injuries treated in emergency departments annually, including over 650,000 hospitalizations and more than 20,000 deaths.
In 2010, the total cost of fall injuries for older Americans was estimated to be $28.2 billion. The financial toll for older adult falls is expected to increase as the population ages and may reach $54.9 billion by 2020.
Falls with or without injury also carry a heavy quality-of-life impact.  A growing number of older adults fear falling and, as a result, self-limit activities and social engagements.
This can result in further physical decline, depression, social isolation and feelings of helplessness. However falling is not an inevitable result of aging.
Take preventative action
Physical activity and exercises that combine weights for muscle strengthening and balance activities help reduce the risk of falls and actually improves the health of your bones
Eat a balanced diet rich in calcium
Take vitamin D supplements
Don’t smoke
Limit your alcohol
Check your home for safety
Get a  screening test
Fall Prevention Day
10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Sept. 26, Outpatient Surgery Lobby at Carolinas Medical Center-Lincoln. Free Balance and Fall Risk Assessment 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Falls Prevention Awareness Day is a great time to learn about the link between fall-related injuries and osteoporosis.
The good news is it is never too late to identify and treat osteoporosis or to prevent falls to avoid broken bones.
Speak to your healthcare provider about getting a bone density test and about medications, if necessary, to treat osteoporosis.
If you think you are at risk for falls, you may benefit from a referral for rehabilitation. Ask your physician to refer you for evaluation and treatment.
Those services are provided at CMC-Lincoln Rehabilitation, 1460 East Gaston St. Lincolnton, NC   28092   980 212 7020.
Mary Elko is a physical therapist with CMC-Lincoln.

Debunking the Myths of Older Adult Falls

Many people think falls are a normal part of aging.  The truth is, they’re not. Most falls can be prevented—and you have the power to reduce your risk. Exercising, managing your medications, having your vision checked, and making your living environment safe can reduce your risk of falls.
The National Council on Aging (NCOA) has made September National Falls Prevention Month and the first day of fall as National Falls Prevention Awareness Day.  The following tips are from the NCOA.
Myth1:  Falling happens to other people, not to me.
Reality:  Many people think, “It won’t happen to me.”  But the truth is that 1 in 3 older adults — about 12 million a year — fall.
Myth 2:  Falling is something normal that happens as you get older.
Reality:  Falling is not a normal part of aging.  Strength and balance exercises, managing your medications, and making your living environment safer are all steps you can take to prevent a fall.
Myth 3:  If I limit my activity, I won’t fall.
Reality:  Some people think the best way to prevent falls is to stay home and limit activity. Not true. Performing physical activity helps you stay independent, as your strength and range of motion benefit from remaining active.
Myth 4:  As long as I say at home, I can avoid falling.
Reality:  Over half of all falls take place at home. Inspect your home for fall risks. Fix simple but serious hazards such as clutter and poor lighting.  Make simple home modifications, such as adding grab bars in the bathroom, and a second handrail on stairs.
Myth 5:  Muscle strength and flexibility can’t be regained.
Reality:  While we do lose muscle as we age, exercise can partially restore strength and flexibility.  It’s never too late to start an exercise program.  Even if you’ve been a “couch potato” your whole life, becoming active now will benefit you in many ways.

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