Falls affect 30 percent of persons aged greater than or equal to 65 years each year. In 2003, 13,700 persons aged greater than or equal to 65 years died from falls, and 1.8 million were treated in U.S. emergency departments for injuries. During 1993–2003, the rate of fatal falls among persons aged greater than or equal to 65 years increased, while the rate of hospitalizations for hip fractures decreased.
. Created: 11/17/2006 by MMWR.
Date Released: 6/8/2007. Series Name: A Cup of Health with CDC.
[Announcer] This podcast is presented by the Centers for
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[Matthew Reynolds] Welcome to A Cup of Health with CDC, a
weekly broadcast of the
MMWR, the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. I’m your host, Matthew
Unintentional falls are a common cause of injury and even death in older adults.
are the most common cause of hip fractures. A broken hip can lead to long
hospitalizations, a painful recovery period, and difficulty walking. In 2003,
fourteen thousand seniors died and over one and a half million were treated
emergency rooms after falling. A group of CDC researchers used data from death
certificates and from hospital emergency rooms around the country to study national
trends in fall-related deaths and injuries.
Here to speak about their recent report describing these trends is Dr. Judy
the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Welcome to
[Dr. Stevens] Thank you, Matthew.
[Matthew Reynolds] Dr. Stevens, how big a problem is falling
for older adults?
[Dr. Stevens] Well, it’s a huge problem. I think almost
everyone I speak to knows
somebody – a parent, a relative, a friend – who has fallen. We know
about a third of all
older adults, that’s people 65 and older, fall every year. Falls also
are the leading cause
of death from injuries for people over 65. Every hour, an older adult dies from
[Matthew Reynolds] Those are staggering statistics. What
are the long-term health
effects of falls among older adults?
[Dr. Stevens] Falls cause a range of injuries; about 20%
cause serious injury, like a
fracture or head injury, and these can result in serious disability, which can
make it hard
for seniors to get around and to live independently in their own homes. It can
increase their risk of early death. Falls cause between 400,000 and 500,000
each year. Even for seniors who haven’t fallen, many develop a fear of
falling. This can
lead to them limit their activities, thinking that this will make them safer,
but actually it
increases their risk of falling and at the same time, also reduces their quality
[Matthew Reynolds] Do more seniors fall now than in the past?
[Dr. Stevens] Well, the number of seniors is growing, so
of course the absolute number
of falls is also increasing, but the most important way to look at this is to
look at the rate
– that’s the number who fall out of every 100,000 older adults.
What we found in our
study was that from 1993 to 2003, the rate of fatal falls increased 55%. This
[Matthew Reynolds] Do falls affect men and women equally?
[Dr. Stevens] No. Men and women differ in the way they respond
to falls. Men are more
likely to die from an injury from a fall, and women are more likely to have
injury, such as a fracture. Hip fractures are especially serious and much more
happen to women than to men.
[Matthew Reynolds] Isn’t falling just something that
happens to you when you get older?
[Dr. Stevens] No, falls are not an inevitable part of aging.
Research has clearly shown
that there are steps that seniors can take to keep from falling.
[Matthew Reynolds] So how can falls be prevented?
[Dr. Stevens] We know a number of things that people can
do to help prevent falls. The
first is regular exercise, especially exercise that helps improve balance and
One example would be Tai Chi, as an exercise. The second is having medicines
they take reviewed by a doctor or pharmacist to help reduce any side effects
interactions that can lead to falling, things like dizziness. The third would
be having your
vision checked. We know vision is very important for maintaining balance and
falls. And then the last would be, of course, reducing potential fall hazards
in the home,
such as clutter and tripping hazards.
[Matthew Reynolds] What materials is CDC providing to help
older adults reduce their
risk of falling?
[Dr. Stevens] The Injury Center at CDC has two brochures
and some posters to help
older adults and their families and caregivers to prevent falls and injuries
from falls. The
first brochure is What You Can Do to Prevent Falls, and that discusses the four
messages that I mentioned earlier: exercising, reviewing medicines, having your
checked, and reducing home hazards. The second is Check for Safety: The Home
Prevention Checklist. This walks you through your home and helps identify potential
hazards and gives suggestions for correcting them. These were recently designed
updated by the Injury Center, in partnership with the CDC Foundation and the
Foundation. We also have four posters that highlight the key messages. All of
materials are available in English, Spanish, and Chinese, and they’re
all free. They can
be ordered at www.cdc.gov/injury.
[Matthew Reynolds] Well thanks, Dr. Stevens, for taking the
time to talk with us.
[Dr. Stevens] Thank you.
[Matthew Reynolds] That’s it for this week’s
show. Don’t forget to join us next week.
Until then, be well. This is Matthew Reynolds for A Cup of Health with CDC.
[Announcer] To access the most accurate and relevant health
information that affects you, your
family and your community, please visit www.cdc.gov.