Seniors' Falling Injuries Are Preventable
Finding a Cause continued...
"We were quite surprised because this is counter to conventional
wisdom," said Dr. Thomas Gill, associate professor of medicine at the Yale
University School of Medicine, who led the study.
Instead, a person's health may have more to do with how frequently they fall
and injure themselves, he said. Weak leg muscles, poor vision and medications
that compromise balance may put elderly people at risk for falling. People
should ask their doctors about the possibility of lowering the dosage of
certain daily medications -- such as sleeping pills, antidepressants and blood
pressure medications that could impair a person's sense of balance -- or
eliminating them completely.
Gill presented his findings in May 1999 at the annual meeting of the
American Geriatric Society. The study is currently under review for
What You Can Do to Help Prevent Falls
- Remain active
Weight training to strengthen leg muscles
- Tai chi for balance and strength
- Wear flat, wide-toed shoes
- Eat calcium-rich foods
- Take calcium supplements
- Preventing Falls and Injuries
Maintaining muscle strength through exercise may be the key to fall
prevention. "Many elderly are scared of falling, so they restrict their
activities and that can begin a downward spiral," Johnston said.
"Paradoxically, what people need to do is to keep exercising to maintain
their function to keep from falling."
She recommends strengthening leg muscles through weight training. She also
advocates tai chi, a calm form of Chinese martial arts, which has been shown to
reduce fall frequency because it promotes balance and strength.
Choosing shoes that are flat and have a wide toe is also important in fall
Because falls aren't always avoidable, older Americans should prepare
themselves, Johnston said. Eating calcium-rich foods and taking calcium
supplements to keep bones strong will play a big part in determining how people
fare during and after a fall.
"If elders can stay active rather than becoming sedentary, they will do
much better in their later years," she said. "There's hope. It is never