A Startling Statistic
Did you know that falls are the leading cause of injury deaths for Americans 65 years of age and older?  More than 18,000 older Americans die every year because of a fall, and the rate has risen dramatically over the last 10 years. 

Risk Factors
Risk factors for falling include: changes in vision, hearing, reflexes and muscle strength, as well as chronic disorders that affect coordination and balance such as arthritis, vertigo, cognitive impairment, diabetes or heart disease.

Ten Tips for Preventing Falls
The good news is falls are preventable!  Here are some tips for preventing falls:

  1. Have your vision and hearing tested often.
  2. Talk to your health care professional about medications you are taking and their side effects.
  3. Talk to your health care professional about planning an exercise program that is suitable for you. This will help improve strength, muscle tone, and balance while keeping your joints flexible.
  4. Limit the amount of alcohol that you drink. Even a small amount can interfere with medications and may affect balance.
  5. Do not get up too quickly after lying down. This may cause dizziness.
  6. Use a cane or walker for balance if you feel unsteady. Be especially careful when walking on uneven pavement or on wet and icy surfaces.
  7. Wear low-heeled, rubber-soled shoes with good support.
  8. Have good lighting in stairways and halls.
  9. Keep walkways and floors clear of clutter and floor coverings firmly attached to the floor.
  10. Have grab bars near the toilet and bathtub. Use nonskid tub mats or abrasive strips inside the tub and non-skid carpet on the floor.

The UVM Medical Center Can Help
The UVM Medical Center has a falls prevention program that includes free home assessments, and financial assistance for modifications for people that qualify.  We also offer A Matter of Balance classes for people that have a fear of falling or have fallen in the past.  Please call 847-1624 for information.

FREE Falls Awareness Event – TOMORROW at University Mall!
National Falls Awareness Day is September 23, 2010.  The UVM Medical Center is teaming up with the University of Vermont Center for Aging, Albany College of Pharmacy, University Mall and the Greater Burlington YMCA to host a falls awareness event in recognition of this special day.  Come to the University Mall in South Burlington from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. for information about falls prevention programs, to talk to a pharmacist about your medications, and to see demonstrations on exercises to improve balance and physical strength.  Hope to see you there!

Dawn Weening is the Coordinator for Adult Outreach and Education at the UVM Medical Center’s Community Health Improvement Office.

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