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5 facts about falls (and how to prevent them)

A pensive older woman.

Sept. 18, 2023—Falls are all too common among older adults. And they can be serious: According to the National Council on Aging, falls are the leading cause of injuries among people age 65 and older.

Fortunately, many falls can be avoided. If you're concerned about the risk of falls, here are five crucial facts to keep in mind.

1. Falls are common, but they aren't normal.

More than 1 in 4 older people fall each year—and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, less than half tell their doctor. But the fact is, falling once doubles your chances of falling again.

And, while falls are common, they're not a natural part of getting older. Health conditions like heart disease or diabetes that impact balance can make you more likely to fall. Trouble walking and vision issues can increase the risk as well. Your doctor can help you address those conditions and reduce your risk.

What to do: If you fall, tell your doctor—even if you weren’t injured.

2. Medications can increase the risk of falling.

Some prescription and over-the-counter medications can cause side effects that make falls more likely. Even if you haven't had side effects in the past, drugs used to treat anxiety, allergies, pain and other health concerns can cause problems as you get older. Pay attention to blurry vision, fatigue, slowed reaction time and loss of balance. These can all increase the risk of falling.

What to do: Make sure your doctor and pharmacist know about every medication you take. Ask if any raise your risk for falls—and if it might be time for a change.

3. Staying—or getting—active can reduce your risk of falling.

Some people think they can reduce their risk of falling if they just stay put. But physical activity helps maintain range of motion and strength, which can help you avoid falling. And staying home—and isolated—can lead to depression and loneliness.

What to do: Get regular exercise. It's never too late to start. You can restore strength and flexibility, or gain it for the first time.

4. An annual eye exam can make all the difference.

The National Council on Aging reports that people with vision problems are more than twice as likely to fall as those who aren't visually impaired. Aging is a risk factor for many types of vision loss. Regular eye exams can help detect problems early and preserve your vision.

What to do: Get your eyes checked every year, and update your glasses as needed.

5. Simple changes can help make your home safer.

Many falls happen at home, but there's a lot you can do to reduce your risk. Remove potential hazards, like throw rugs and clutter. Add nightlights and lamps to address poor lighting. And consider modifications like grab bars in the bathroom and non-slip paint on outdoor steps.

What to do: Take a close look at the hazards in your home. Need expert advice? An occupational therapist can help you find ways to stay safe as you age in place. Ask your doctor for a referral.

Start the conversation

It's always a good time to talk about fall risks. Talk with your doctor, family and friends about supporting safety and maintaining independence. And discover more fall-safety steps in our Fall Prevention topic center.

Sources

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