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5 reasons why we are more prone to falls in old age

Falls could lead to serious injuries in older people ©Shutterstock

As you grow older, the risk of falls, fractures and other injuries increases. Make sure you know the reasons behind falls in old age so you can take measures to reduce the risk.

Written by Upneet Pansare |Updated : January 9, 2019 2:26 PM IST

According to a recent study by the Institute of Ageing at Toulouse University Hospital, France, long-term exercise or exercise for at least a year can help reduce the risk of falls, fractures, or hospitalizations in the elderly. The researchers claimed that moderate exercise comprising aerobics combined with strength training and balance, about three times per week for approximately 50 minutes per session was effective in reducing the risk of falls. Why are older people more prone to falls and injuries? There could be many reasons for it. It's important to know the reasons not just to reduce the risk of injuries in older people but also to determine if there are any co-existing conditions that could have led to the fall. Here are some factors to keep in mind:

Muscle weakness: A 2018 study published in the Journal of American Geriatrics Society found that as we age, many older adults will be at high risk for falls as obesity and muscle weakness also increase. Falls can be especially challenging for older people who are obese and who also have sarcopenia (the medical term for a loss of muscle strength as we age). The research said that older adults who gain weight may increase their risk for muscle weakness and falls. Having sarcopenia and obesity, or "sarcopenic obesity," is linked to a decline in your ability to function physically, and to an increased risk of fractures. This is why combining strength training exercises and aerobic exercises work excellent for weight loss and muscle strength.

Bloodstream/respiratory/urinary infections: According to a 2015 study by the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, these types of infections can cause falls in older people. The study notes that people can fall down because the infection may cause low blood pressure - and therefore lightheadedness and dizziness - or because it adds to confusion in older patients with dementia. For the study, 161 patients admitted to the emergency room because of falls were studied and it was found that 71 of these had a urinary tract infection, 64 had a bloodstream infection, 37 had a respiratory infection and nine had an infection of the heart valve. This is why it is important for older people and their caregivers to know about the cause of a fall and to determine whether the person was ill before the fall happened to ensure the patient is diagnosed appropriately and can receive timely treatment.

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Lack of sleep: Less sleep leads to poor posture and balance hence a single bad night sleep can increase the risk of fall, says a study conducted at the University of Warwick, which appears in the journal Scientific Reports. Another research in the Journal of Bone and Mineral ResearchAnalysis pointed out that poor sleep quality, insomnia, and more sleep disturbances were associated with increased odds of recurrent falls.

Certain medications: A study found that trazodone, a drug, is associated with a risk of falls and major fractures in elderly as atypical antipsychotics. Antipsychotics and trazodone, an antidepressant also used for sleep issues, are commonly prescribed for patients with dementia. The study found that patients who took trazodone had a rate of falls and major fractures, including hip fractures, similar to those receiving atypical antipsychotics.

Vision problems: As you age, your eyesight is likely to become weaker. This could increase the chances of falls. Not just this, a study warned that adjusting to recent vision interventions like a new pair of spectacles or lenses could also be a reason for falls.

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