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by Jennifer Wetzel | Friday, Sep. 20, 2013, 9:51 AM
(Falls Prevention Awareness Day is Sept. 22 – the first day of fall)
One of the top reasons for trauma admission at Vanderbilt University Medical Center may come as a surprise: falls.
Second only to motor vehicle accident victims, fall-related injuries account for more than 15 percent of the annual trauma patient volume at Vanderbilt, the area’s only Level 1 Trauma Center, which has seen more than 7,000 fall victims over the past quarter-century.
Falls are the No. 1 cause of injury for people 60 and up, the second cause of injury in ages 40-59 and third for ages 20-39, according to the American College of Surgeons National Trauma Data Bank. One in three people over the age of 65 and one in two people over age 80 fall each year, making falls the leading cause of injury in older populations.
Injuries from falls can range from orthopaedic to head trauma and can increase the risk of early death, with 7 percent mortality rate in fall victims over age 65.
In older populations, factors that increase risk of falling include decreased vision and hearing, slower reflexes, poorer balance, impaired motor and/or cognitive function, decreased muscle mass, decreased bone density and less joint flexibility.
Among younger populations, fall-related injuries are primarily attributed to workplace accidents or exercising and sports.
“Injury from falls can be severe no matter the age, but falls are especially devastating in the geriatric patient population,” said Richard Miller, M.D., Chief of Trauma and Surgical Critical Care and professor of Surgery. “It is important for seniors and their families to take the necessary measures to help prevent falls.”
The National Council on Aging has designated Sept. 22 – the first day of fall – as Falls Prevention Awareness Day and offers the following recommendations:
- Adopt a physical activity regimen with balance, strength training and flexibility components.
- Consult with a health professional about your fall risk assessment.
- Have medications reviewed periodically, especially blood thinners, Miller says, due to possible risk of major bleeding.
- Get annual eye exams and hearing screens.
- Make sure the home environment is safe by reducing tripping hazards, adding hand railings in tubs or showers and on both sides of stairways and increasing lighting.
Jennifer Wetzel, (615) 322-4747
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