August 18, 2023

Why We Fall

Why we fall
Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Why We Fall?

Have you wondered why we fall especially as we get older? And, can anything be done to prevent them? Falls are a bigger problem than many believe and do not receive the attention they should.

Many conditions contribute to falling. These are called risk factors. The good news is that many of these risk factors can be changed or modified to help prevent falls. Reasons for falls include:

  • Lower body weakness. Loss of muscle mass as we age is called sarcopenia.
  • Vitamin D deficiency.
  • Difficulties with walking and balance.
  • Medications such as tranquilizers, sedatives, or antidepressants. Even some over-the-counter medicines can affect balance.
  • Vision problems
  • Foot pain or poor footwear
  • Home hazards or dangers such as broken or uneven steps, and throw rugs or clutter that can be tripped over.

Most falls are caused by a combination of risk factors. The more risk factors a person has, the greater their chances of falling.

Poly-pharmacy (use of several medications at once) is a huge problem in the elderly and attempts should be made to reduce the number of medications to as few as possible.

Falls Statistics

Now that you know why we fall, let’s look at some fall statistics. The numbers below may shock some of you and highlight the prevalence and seriousness of falls. Once a person falls, the chance of falling a second time doubles.

The following statistics are from the CDC website.

  • One out of five falls causes a serious injury such as broken bones or a head injury.
  • Each year, 3 million older people are treated in emergency departments for fall injuries.
  • Over 800,000 patients a year are hospitalized because of a fall injury, most often because of a head injury or hip fracture.
  • Each year at least 300,000 older people are hospitalized for hip fractures.
  • More than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falling, usually by falling sideways.
  • Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBI).
  • In 2015, the total medical costs for falls totaled more than $50 billion. Medicare and Medicaid shouldered 75% of these costs.

Head injuries from falls can be life-threatening especially in individuals who are on blood thinners as this increases the risk of bleeding in the brain. Any older person who falls and hits their head should be seen by a doctor.

Fall Prevention Steps

If you are elderly or feel that you are at risk of falling consider taking the following stepsl

  1. Have your doctor assess your risk of falling (this may include having a health-care professional come out to your home to better asses your risk.
  2. Have your doctor review your medications and see which ones, if any, may make you dizzy or tired. If you are on a number of medications have your doctor streamline the use of medications as much as possible
  3. Work on strength and balancing exercises. Ballroom dancing can be a very effective activity to improve balance. So can Tai Chi.
  4. Be sure to have your eye checked annually.
  5. Make your home safer.  Remove items you may trip over. Add grab bars in and around your shower or tub. Use chairs with armrests or rails. Have good lighting throughout the house.

Now you know why we fall and what can be done to prevent them.

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Dr. Joe Jacko

Dr. Joe is board certified in internal medicine and sports medicine with additional training in hormone replacement therapy and regenerative medicine. He has trained or practiced at leading institutions including the Hughston Clinic, Cooper Clinic, Steadman-Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas, and Cenegenics. He currently practices in Columbus, Ohio at Grandview Primary Care. Read more about Dr. Joe Jacko

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