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How Seniors Can Prevent Falls

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July 2010
How Seniors Can Prevent Falls

Did you know that one-third of people aged 65 and older have a fall every year? And those who have fallen once are two or three times more likely to fall again? Falls are also the leading cause of injury and fractures among elders. According to the CDC, “ More than 90% of hip fractures among adults ages 65 and older are caused by falls. These injuries can cause severe health problems and lead to reduced quality of life and even premature death.” Among the common types of injuries that seniors suffer due to having a fall are head trauma and fractures of the wrist, spine and hip. It is, however, encouraging to know that most falls are preventable and by improving strength, balance and flexibility, you or your elderly relative can reduce the chances of falling.

Strength training or weight-bearing exercises to build and improve strength are of particular importance to seniors. As we age, we lose a certain percentage of muscle mass each year if we are not actively performing strength-training exercises. As our muscle mass declines, strength is diminished and the body becomes weaker and weaker. A strong body can not only prevent a fall but also aid in recovery from a fall. Strength training is important for seniors as it improves the quality of their lives by making activities of daily living more manageable. While walking is a good cardiovascular exercise and an activity most seniors are comfortable with, it does not provide the benefits of strength training. The following link offers good strength-training exercises for seniors that can be performed at home with minimal equipment: http://exercise.about.com/cs/exerciseworkouts/l/blseniorwkout.htm Remember to check with your doctor first before you begin these exercises.

Lack of flexibility in seniors can lead to decreased range of motion, stiffness and eventually injury. Better flexibility can improve circulation and make everyday activities easier. The following links offer some exercises for seniors to improve their flexibility and range of motion: http://www.ehow.com/videos-on_1963_senior-physical-fitness-home.html

http://exercise.about.com/od/yogapilatesflexibility/l/blseniorstretch.htm

Balance exercises are also important when it comes to prevention of falls, since our balance declines as we age. Having good balance is something we take for granted and often it’s too late when we realize that our balance has deteriorated. It is believed in our culture that the older we get, the more we need to slow down and ‘take it easy.’ It is this belief and the lack of activity that leads to many issues with balance, coordination, poor strength and flexibility and eventually a fall. The following link http://www.eldergym.com/elderly-balance.html provides some useful balance exercises (with video demonstration) for seniors.

According to the National Institute on Aging, “when older people lose their ability to do things on their own, it doesn’t happen just because they have aged. More likely it is because they have become inactive.”Seniors must be encouraged to exercise and move around. Ideally they should exercise in a group setting or with a partner. Being sedentary and sitting in place for too long causes muscle atrophy, poor balance and strength, and lack of flexibility, which can result in a fall and/or injury.


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