The annual Falls Prevention Awareness Day (FPAD) — September 23, 2019 — raises awareness about how to prevent fall-related injuries among older adults. National, state, and local partners collaborate to educate others about the impact of falls, share fall prevention strategies, and advocate for the expansion of evidence-based community fall prevention programs. National and state efforts are published in NCOA’s annual FPAD Impact Report. If you would like to learn more about fall prevention efforts in your state, please contact your State Falls Prevention Coalition lead.
Visit the National Council on Aging website for more resources to engage in FPAD!
Fact Sheet: Osteoporosis, Falls and Broken Bones
Take action to prevent osteoporosis, falls, and broken bones. Download and share this one-page handout on the link between fall-related injuries and osteoporosis. Created by the NCOA Falls Free® Coalition and the National Association of Chronic Disease Directors.
Last week an NPR story included information on tai chi as a fall prevention exercise. I was intrigued because I have recently started teaching Tai Chi for Arthritis and Fall Prevention developed the Tai Chi for Health Institute.
Here are the relevant parts of the story and a link to the full story.
What are some of the interventions you’ve used that can help seniors?
You can do so many things. First of all, I tell everybody you’ve got to do some balance training. Tai chi is probably the best exercise to prevent falls, but whatever works for you. And, interestingly, just walking does not reduce your risk for falling. So a lot of doctors will say, “Just get out and walk 20 minutes every day, and that’ll keep you safe. That’ll help you stay healthy.” Walking is great for your heart; it’s great for your brain; it’s great for lots of it. But in order to really reduce your risk for falls, you’ve got to do something specific to balance.
What makes tai chi a good exercise to prevent falls? And why isn’t walking a good alternative?
Walking is kind of just keeping you in one plane moving forward, and it’s not doing any kind of postural training. What tai chi does is it gives you an increased area of postural stability, [which is] kind of your being able to remain upright in space. When you do tai chi, you do stepping moves to the front, to the side; you move your arms out, you reach, you bend. And basically that increases the size of your postural stability so that you can catch yourself and not have the fall. You can be a little bit off kilter and right yourself.
For the first time since 2001, the American Geriatrics Society and the British Geriatrics Society have updated their guidelines for preventing falls in older people. The update includes two notable changes: One recommends tai chi — the meditative, slow-motion Chinese exercise — as an effective way to prevent falls, while another suggests that doctors review medication use by all elderly patients, with an eye toward reducing use of those drugs that increase the risk of falling.
Simple strength training tips
From Harvard Medical School HEALTHbeat – May 18, 2010
If you’ve never lifted weights in your life — and many people haven’t — why should you start now? The answer is simple: Muscle tissue, bone density, and strength all dwindle over the years. So, too, does muscle power. These changes open the door to accidents and injuries that can compromise your ability to lead an independent, active life. Strength training is the most effective way to slow and possibly reverse much of this decline.
Having smaller, weaker muscles doesn’t just change the way people look or move. Muscle loss affects the body in many ways. Strong muscles pluck oxygen and nutrients from the blood much more efficiently than weak ones. That means any activity requires less cardiac work and puts less strain on your heart. Strong muscles are better at sopping up sugar in the blood and helping the body stay sensitive to insulin (which helps cells remove sugar from the blood). In these ways, strong muscles can help keep blood sugar levels in check, which in turn helps prevent or control type 2 diabetes and is good for the heart. Strong muscles also enhance weight control.
On the other hand, weak muscles hasten the loss of independence as everyday activities — such as walking, cleaning, shopping, and even dressing — become more difficult. They also make it harder to balance your body properly when moving or even standing still, or to catch yourself if you trip. The loss of power compounds this. Perhaps it’s not so surprising that, by age 65, one in three people reports falls. Because bones also weaken over time, one out of every 20 of these falls ends in fracture, usually of the hip, wrist, or leg. The good news is that the risk of these problems can be reduced by an exercise and fitness routine that includes strength training.