The statistics are high: according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in three individuals age 65 or older falls each year. That number goes up to one in two individuals at age 85.
The good news? The vast majority of falls are preventable. Starting to address the risk factors early in life not only gives you a greater quality of life in youth and young adulthood; it gives a better outlook for later.
Lowering fall risk early helps you have the energy, confidence and funds (few things eat up money the way emergency health care does) to do what you want when you're older. Low fall risk helps keep the doors open for things like traveling, playing ball with the grandkids and giving back to the community through volunteering.
Kids can fall down and bounce right back up, but for seniors, a fall is rarely just a fall.
"As we age, our bodies undergo changes that amount to decreased reaction time, decreased healing, decreased water content and other things," explained Josh Haislip, assistant director of rehab at Life Care Center of Hixson. As a physical therapist, he frequently treats patients who have come for rehab after a fall.
Skin integrity and bone strength also decrease, leading to more acute injuries.
According to the CDC, falls are the No. 1 cause of injury for seniors. They account for five times more hospitalizations than other types of injuries. For example, 95 percent of hip fractures occur from falls.
One in five seniors who have a hip fracture dies within a year, often from resulting complications. Days spent in bed during recovery lead to muscle atrophy and increased weakness, which increases the risk of another fall and can decrease energy and quality of life. Lying still for long periods of time also increases the risk of blood clots (which can lead to strokes or heart attacks) and pneumonia.
The first step to lowering your fall risk is to be positive. Falls are preventable, and knowledge is power.
While these tips aren't comprehensive, they provide some easy ways you can stay on your feet as long as possible.
Many people don't start thinking about fall risk until their senior years or until they have already fallen.
Really, though, fall prevention starts in the teen years. When you're young, you build the bone that you will have in old age, and as you age, you lose bone mass, so build it up as much as possible early. It's the same with muscle.
"Investing time and focus on the contributing factors of falls early in life will delay or prevent the occurrence of falls as we age," said Haislip. "A proactive approach is advantageous, and education is the foundation for further action."
Taking these tips to heart just might help you stay on your feet so you can enjoy a long and healthy life and do the things you love longer.