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A New Study Evaluates Methods to Prevent or Reduce Falls

September 16, 2012

A new Cochrane Library review looked at over 150 separate studies involving nearly 80,000 participants to understand how we can better reduce falls. Falling is a serious problem as we age—up to 30 of seniors may fall a year. While less than 10 percent result in a fracture, about 20 percent do need medical attention. Circumstances that lead to falls vary from poor balance and poor vision to dementia. Here are the interventions with the most promise:

• Group and home-based exercise programs with some balance and strength training exercises, including Tai Chi.
• Having a medical assessment of a person's risk of falling and then taking steps to address those identified risks.
• Improving home safety with suggestions made by an occupational therapist who can see you in your environment.
• Wearing an anti-slip shoe device in icy conditions.
• If a blood rest reveals a low vitamin D level, increasing vitamin D may help.
• Attempting to gradually stop certain drugs that make falls more likely, including some prescribed for improving sleep, reducing anxiety, and treating depression.
• Cataract surgery reduces falls in women having the operation on the first affected eye.
• A pacemaker can reduce falls in people with frequent falls associated with carotid sinus hypersensitivity, a condition that causes sudden changes in heart rate and blood pressure.
• In people with disabling foot pain, assessing footwear, getting customized insoles, and doing foot and ankle exercises in combination with regular podiatrist visits was shown to reduce the number of times a person falls.

While being aware of home safety steps is important, many of the strategies in the report involved getting an assessment from an appropriate specialist who can offer personalized steps for fall prevention. Talk to your doctor or your loved one’s doctor about your individual health needs and what appropriate referrals might best suit you.