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Fall! Time to think about falling.

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Mainers love fall. The cool, clear, colorful days are delightful. We also know that winter will be here soon. One of the major dangers of winter if falling, especially for our older population.

The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) states that:

     1. 30%-40% of community-dwelling Americans ages 65 and older fall at least once a year.

     2. Falls are the leading cause of injury among seniors.

     3. In 2003, falls were the number-one cause of injury deaths and ninth leading cause of death overall for people 65 and older.

     4. In 2004, US hospitals treated more than 1.8 million older adults for fall-related injuries and more than 433,000 were hospitalized.

The Drexel University School of Public Health reviewed 54 clinical trials, designed to find the best fall prevention recommendations for the USPSTF to provide physicians. This review found that the two most effective ways to prevent falls were exercise and vitamin D supplementation. The vitamin D supplementation saw a 17% reduction in falls, and exercise was associated with a 13% lower risk of falling.

Individual interventions, such as vision correction, medication assessment, home hazard modification, and education and behavioral counseling, did not significantly reduce the risk of falling, but a comprehensive risk assessment and management did reduce the risk of falling by 11%.

The effective exercise studies included both group and individual exercise. Although a variety of exercises were studied, the most effective were aimed at improving gait, balance, strength and flexibility needed to do everyday activities.

The Greater Portland Y has a variety of exercise programs for older adults, including Healthy Living, re-YOUTH-enate, Thai Chi, Matter of Balance, and personal training. Fall is a good time to start preparing yourself to prevent falls this winter.