By Latha Raja Shankar, M.D., MBA, Chief Medical Officer, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico
Preventing Falls in Older Adults
Did you know that falls are the leading cause of injury and injury-related deaths in the United States? Falling is especially problematic for aging adults. It’s estimated that one in four adults over 65 will fall. In the U.S. alone, an adult over 65 falls every second. The good news—you can prevent falls from happening! Invest in your independence by following these four tips to avoid accidents and falls.
Start at home by removing clutter and tripping hazards. Add handrails to bathrooms and stairwells, and make sure your home is well-lit.
Medications and Supplements
The medicines and supplements that you take can increase your risk of falling. This includes medications prescribed by health care providers, over-the-counter medications, and dietary supplements, including herbal supplements.
Commonly used medicines such as sleep aids, blood pressure medications, some groups of pain medications (like opioids,) muscle relaxants, and medications prescribed for depression, anxiety, and mood stabilization are some examples of medications that can increase your risk for falls. Discuss the medications and supplements you take with your health care provider and understand how they may increase your risk of falling.
Vision and Hearing
Regularly check your eyes and hearing. Ensure you have optimally corrected vision and hearing to avoid accidents and falls.
Keep moving. Discuss your fall risk with your health care provider and determine a safe exercise program. Contact your local community or senior center for information about exercise and fall prevention programs. Finally, have your feet examined and your footwear assessed by a podiatrist.
Falls don’t have to be inevitable as you age. By making simple changes around the home, staying active, and partnering with your health care provider to maintain your vision, hearing, and foot health, you can reduce your chances of falling as you age.
From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
- Stopping Elderly Accidents, Injuries and Deaths (STEADI)
- Mobility Planning Tool
- Checklist for Safety
- Managing Postural Hypotension
If you have a health question that you would like to be considered in Ask a Health Care Professional, please email [email protected]. BCBSNM will select questions that may appear. Questions will not be personally answered. The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and not necessarily those of BCBSNM. This column is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical care.