Falls are never fun. When we are young we can pretty quickly bounce back and keep going. In the elderly though a fall can lead to a hip fracture. This in turn can trigger a serious chain of events including loss of independence and even death. In the USA each year falls in the over 65’s leads to 20,000 deaths and 2 million ER visits.
So preventing falls in the older age group is a key plank of good health. Drugs for osteoporosis have been sold on their ability to prevent fractures. Yet what really determines the likelihood of a fracture is the likelihood of a fall.
There are no guarantees in life but there are some simple practical measures, which can be taken to genuinely reduce the chances of falling.
1) Regular exercise which includes strength and balance training. Keeping fit is important but strength training helps strengthen bones. Balance training helps keep reflexes sharper. Group exercise is a good way to keep healthy and be social.
2) Check those medications. Starting blood pressure medications was associated with a 43% increase in falls in the first 45 days. “Targets” for blood pressure are often too low for older people. Psychotropic medications can cause drowsiness and are also associated with higher risks of falls. Be sure that the benefits of medications outweigh the risks.
3) Get some sunshine. Bones need vitamin D and it is free from the sun. You do not want to get burned so find out what is right for your area. A rough rule of thumb is 10 minutes of sunshine four times a week on the arms and face; done away from the middle of the day. And a bit of sunshine generally lifts your mood too.