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50+: Live Better, Longer

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Falls Common After Age 65

Falls Are Leading Cause of Injuries for Seniors
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

March 6, 2008 -- The CDC today estimated that nearly 6 million people aged 65 and older fell at least once during a three-month period in 2006.

Almost 2 million of them saw a doctor or restricted their activities for at least one day because of those falls, according to the CDC.

Falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries for people aged 65 and older.

The CDC's new report on falls comes from some 92,800 people aged 65 and older who took part in a national health survey in 2006.

About 16% of participants reported falling at least once during the previous three months and almost 5% said they visited a doctor or curbed their activities for at least one day because of their fall injuries.

On average, participants reported falling once during the previous three months. But 23% of those who fell reported falling at least three times during the study period.

Women and men had similar rates for falling, but women were more likely to report injuries from their falls. The study appears in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Preventing Falls

The CDC's web site includes these tips on fall prevention for older adults:

  • Exercise regularly (get your doctor's approval first).
  • Have your doctor or pharmacist review your medicines, including over-the-counter medicines.
  • Have your vision checked at least once yearly by an eye doctor.
  • Get up slowly from sitting or lying down.
  • Wear shoes inside and outside the house.
  • Avoid going barefoot or wearing slippers.
  • Keep emergency numbers in large print near each phone.
  • Put a phone near the floor in case you fall and can't get up.
  • Think about wearing an alarm device that will bring help in case you fall and can't get up.

Home Safety Tips

The CDC's web site also includes tips for older adults on making homes safer to help prevent falls:

  • Improve the lighting.
  • Hang lightweight curtains or shades to reduce glare.
  • Remove throw rugs or use them with a nonslip backing.
  • Keep objects like papers, books, and towels off the floor.
  • Coil or tape cords and wires next to the wall so you can't trip over them.
  • Fix loose or uneven steps.
  • Put overhead lights at the top and bottom of steps.
  • Make sure carpet on steps is firmly attached to every step.
  • Put nonslip rubber treads on uncarpeted stairs.
  • Fix loose handrails.
  • Paint a contrasting color on the top edge of all steps so you can see the stairs better. For instance, use a light-colored paint on dark wood.

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