published Thursday, February 27th, 2014

Ask A Doctor: What are the risk factors for fall injuries as we get older?

By Dr. Homero Rivas

Q: What are the risk factors for fall injuries as we get older?

A: First is age itself. The lack of weight-bearing activities can lead to loss of bone strength and increase the risk of falls. Medical conditions that impair mobility, balance and strength also make falls more likely. Arthritis, strokes, cardiac problems, neurological diseases and decreased vision can contribute to falls. Environmental risk factors are responsible for about one-quarter of all falls and include slippery/wet surfaces, poorly lit areas and cluttered pathways. Roughly 60 percent of falls happen at home, 30 percent occur outside of the home and about 10 percent happen in nursing homes and institutions. Common injuries because of falls, include fractures of the wrist, spine and hip. Because most falls occur at home, it’s the most obvious place to make changes. For example, stairs and hallways should be well-lit and clutter-free. Handrails, shower stools and nonskid mats should be used in bathrooms and showers. Loose cords, small rugs and even pets can become tripping hazards for older individuals and may need to be removed.

— Dr. Homero Rivas, Chattanooga Spine and Body; member, Chattanooga-Hamilton County Medical Society

Readers: To submit a health-related question for a medical doctor, email it to Clint Cooper at See this space each week for answers.

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