Over 65? You’re More Likely to Suffer a Fall if You’ve Done This in the Past 2 Weeks

Falls are a serious health risk for seniors, often leading to bone fractures, head injuries,…

Falls are a serious health risk for seniors, often leading to bone fractures, head injuries, and more. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), falls are the top cause of accidents in adults over the age of 65, and the main cause of serious injury and accidental death in seniors. “Even older people who appear to be strong and well can fall,” AAFP experts write—and certain factors can make falls much more likely.

In fact, your chance of falling greatly increases if you’ve done one thing in the past two weeks, they warn—and it’s a common occurrence among seniors. Read on to learn which factor temporarily spikes your fall risk, and how to avoid a serious accident as a result.

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With longer life expectancy creating a growing population of seniors across the globe, falls have become an increasing health care concern. “As people grow older they are increasingly at risk of falling and consequent injuries,” wrote the World Health Organization (WHO) Europe in a 2004 report. “The prevention of falls is of major importance because they engender considerable mortality, morbidity, and suffering for older people and their families, and incur social costs due to hospital and nursing home admissions,” their experts say.

The WHO adds that 30 percent of people over 65 fall each year, and that risk increases with age. “Between 20 percent and 30 percent of those who fall suffer injuries that reduce mobility and independence,” they say.

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Roughly one-tenth of all falls require emergency assistance, and 60 percent of those falls requiring assistance involve fractures, says a 2013 study published in the journal Therapeutic Advances in Drug Safety.

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A Variety of Open Pill Bottles
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Certain factors make you more vulnerable to a serious fall, experts say. In particular, the AAFP warns that a fall is more likely during the two weeks after changing medications—meaning you should be especially careful to watch your step if your doctor has recently prescribed you something new, or switched out one of your existing medicines.

You can mitigate this risk by working with your healthcare provider to make a plan for your transition. This may mean weaning you off of your medication gradually, or starting a new medication at a low dose to monitor symptoms and side effects. “Whatever you do, don’t stop taking the drug without speaking to your doctor first,” says Harvard Health Publishing. “If you start a new medication and you feel you are having new symptoms or your symptoms are getting worse, then you should contact your doctor right away.”

Close up of elderly woman taking a medicine out of blister pack.
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Certain medications are more likely than others to lead to a fall, says the AAFP. “The side effects of some medicines can upset your balance,” they write, noting that medicines for depression, sleep problems, and high blood pressure commonly contribute to accidents. “Some medicines for diabetes and heart conditions can also make you unsteady on your feet,” they add.

Taking multiple medications at once can also make your fall risk soar, since they can cause unexpected interactions. “You may be more likely to fall if you are taking four or more medicines,” AAFP experts say.

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Be sure to keep a master list of every medication you are taking, and share it with your medical team—including your primary care physician, specialists, and pharmacist—especially if your medications have been prescribed by different doctors.

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older man with dementia holding hands with doctor
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Besides taking extra precautions with your medication, several other measures can help reduce your fall risk.

According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA), staying physically active to maintain strength, having your eyesight and hearing checked regularly, getting enough sleep, and limiting your alcohol intake can all help prevent a fall. Additionally, wearing safe shoes, being careful on slippery surfaces, and keeping your home well-lit and free of dangerous obstructions will also help to keep you safe.

“Always tell your doctor if you have fallen since your last checkup, even if you aren’t hurt when you fall,” recommends the NIA. “A fall can alert your doctor to a new medical problem or problems with your medications or eyesight that can be corrected. Your doctor may suggest physical therapy, a walking aid, or other steps to help prevent future falls.”

Best Life offers the most up-to-date information from top experts, new research, and health agencies, but our content is not meant to be a substitute for professional guidance. When it comes to the medication you’re taking or any other health questions you have, always consult your healthcare provider directly.