May 01, 2020

Preventing falls

Find your steady state

Falls among older people are common, and it's estimated that a quarter of people over 65 fall at least once in a year. Falls are also dangerous. They can lead to broken bones, injuries to the spinal cord and brain, or even death. In fact, falls are the leading cause of deaths related to injuries in older adults.

Falls aren't the result of simply getting older. They're related to multiple conditions of aging, including muscle loss, reduced reaction time and impaired balance. Some of these changes are reversible, and for others, the risk can be reduced. Environmental factors also come into play. Identifying and addressing risk factors early can help prevent injury and preserve independence.

Know your risk

Discuss your risk of falls with your doctor at least yearly. Some basic questions to address: Have you fallen in the past year? Do you feel unsteady on your feet? Do you worry about falling?

Preventing falls starts with determining factors that increase your risk of falling. This is often a fairly extensive process. Still, a thorough exam may be worthwhile if you had a fall that caused injury, have a history of falls or feel unsteady on your feet. There are several quick screening tests that can help assess overall fall risk:

  • Five times sit to stand — This tests strength. You start seated in an armless chair with a firm seat, and then stand up and sit down five times as quickly as possible while being timed.
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