You may have heard that falls are one of the biggest reasons for nursing home admissions. However, if you’re like most people, when you hear nursing home, you think of only the elderly.
But, the fact is that falls are a risk for all of us as we age and by the time you hit just 65, you’re considered high risk.
That’s because every year 30 percent of U.S. adults 65 and older fall. In fact, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall every 11 seconds and every 19 minutes someone over 65 dies from a fall, making falls the leading cause of death in this age group.
But, what puts you at risk? Considering how dangerous they are, why are you more likely to fall as you age?
Well, according to new research it goes beyond balance….
The epidemic of sarcopenic obesity
The study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society used data from the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) on over 11,000 postmenopausal women who were followed for more than 15 years.
The researchers looked at the women’s experience with falls and health information to find contributing factors.
And, they discovered that there are two factors that work in tandem to increase the fall risk in women — muscle weakness and obesity.
The medical term for loss of muscle strength as you age is sarcopenia. And, it’s estimated to effect up to 13 percent of adults over the age of 60 and up to 50 percent of the 80 plus crowd.
And, according to the scientists, older adults who gain weight may increase their risk for muscle weakness and therefore falls — a factor that plays a big role with the rate of obesity in our country rising rapidly.
The combined term for this low muscle strength and obesity is sarcopenic obesity and it’s linked to both a decline in your ability to function in your daily life – such as walking, standing up from a chair and caring for yourself — making it more likely that you will fall as well as an increasing your risk of fractures.
The researchers found that the risk of falls related to sarcopenic obesity was especially high for Hispanic/Latina women. But, they also noted that even postmenopausal women younger than 65 were at a higher risk for falls when they were considered obese and had low muscle strength.
Protection from falls
Clearly, two of the most important steps you can take to protect yourself from falls are to lose any extra weight you’ve been carrying around and to boost your muscle strength.
Now, I know that those two things may be easier to write than to actually do but you can succeed.
For help with dropping those stubborn pounds check out these 22 weight loss tips from board-certified physician with over 20 years of experience, Dr. Michael Cutler as well as 3 weight loss supplements that really work from my colleague, Jenny Smiechowski.
And, to overcome sarcopenia, the most important thing you can remember is use it or lose it. If you want strong muscles, you have to work them. To get even more benefit from activity, try the supplement Jenny recommends that doubles the muscle strength you gain from exercise.
Falls may be especially common over the age of 65 but they aren’t inevitable. Use the tips above to decrease your risk and you can be strong, balanced and fall-free for life.
- Statistics about falls — American Bone Health
- Falls Prevention Facts — National Council on Aging
- Does having muscle weakness and obesity lead to falls for older women? — American Geriatrics Society