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Preventing Accidents and Falls

Accidents and fall frequently are overlooked as major health problems associated with aging. However, both the number and severity of falls increase with age, and falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries for older adults. Each year almost 3 million older adults are treated in emergency departments for fall injuries, and more than 800,000 are hospitalized for these injuries.

Many factors increase the risk of falls among older adults. Some of these are associated with the aging process, while others are associated with medical disorders (e.g., diabetes or stroke) that occur more frequently in old age. Such disorders can cause muscle weakness, sensory deficits, or balance problems that can lead to postural and gait instability. In addition, adverse reactions to many commonly prescribed medications can result in inattention, drowsiness, dizziness, or weakness and can directly cause a fall. Finally, many falls are the result of environmental factors that could be prevented if proper home inspections and modifications are made.

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