Twenty-five percent of older people who fall and fracture a hip die within a year. Eighty percent are left with severe mobility problems, no longer able to walk a city block. Those who die or become severely disabled after a hip fracture are usually people who were frail or sick — or both — before their fall, said Dr. Mary Tinetti, a geriatrician at the Yale School of Medicine who has studied falls for more than 30 years.
- Integrate balance and strength work into daily life.
- Several studies have shown that vitamin D, which can improve muscle strength and balance, helps reduce falls.
- Remaining appropriately hydrated, particularly on hot days or for people at risk for low blood pressure (a main cause of dizziness), is important.
- Blood pressure medication, used by 70 percent of people over 70, can cause dizziness when blood pressure drops too much
- Sleep medication, for instance, can cause a wobbly gait.
- Reducing the number of tripping and slipping hazards at home also helps prevent falls. Scatter rugs should be removed, for instance, and floors and stairways kept clear of obvious threats like shoes and toys.
- People should have their eyes checked at least once a year and wear single-vision glasses while out on walks, as bifocal and progressive lenses can cause missteps.
- Excessive tentativeness can actually increase the risk of falling. “People who are more cautious cut down on their activity,” she said, “which makes their balance worse, their strength worse, and reflexes that prevent falls worse.”