Falls account for 85 per cent of all injuries among seniors in B.C. and are the main reason why older adults lose their independence.
When seniors fall, the consequences can be serious. In fact, falls were the leading cause of injury deaths among B.C. seniors in 2010.
Increased fall risk can occur for a variety of reasons, usually from a lack of balance or inability to recover balance due to age-related physical or mental health problems, impaired mobility or vision, a reaction to medications, or slip and trip hazards.
Falls usually happen at home, and women over 65 years are 2.3 times more likely to be hospitalized for a fall-related injury than men. Many of these involve hip fractures. Nearly one in 10 hospitalizations among B.C. seniors were due to a fall last year and 40 per cent of fall-related hospitalizations involved a hip fracture.
Approximately one quarter of older adults who live independently prior to a hip fracture may need to live in a facility for a period of time following a fall-related fracture. A contributing factor is that seniors may become afraid of falling, so they restrict their activities and this can lead to weak muscles, stiff joints and poor balance, resulting in more falls.
The good news is that most falls are predictable and can be prevented by taking simple steps to reduce fall risk.
Having enough vitamin D can help to reduce the risk of falls and fall-related injuries. Vitamin D keeps muscles strong which is important for balance and mobility, and helps calcium absorb into bones which keeps bones strong.
Eating foods rich in calcium and vitamin D will help protect against muscle weakness, which in turn will help prevent falls.
Health Canada recommends that adults over the age of 70 years take 800 units of vitamin D per day.
To help assess whether you are getting enough vitamin D, contact a dietitian at HealthLinkB.C. through 811.
For more information on fall prevention, please visit www.health.gov.bc.ca/prevention/fallprevention.html.