Thursday, February 9, 2012

A Couple Words On Falls by Dr. A. R. Scopelliti

A simple thing such as mis-stepping on a carpet or sliding on a slippery floor can alter your life in a heartbeat. Like the thousands of individuals who fall each year, you may suffer a fractured bone. Fractured bones are no picnic, and for older people, a fractured bone can be the start-beginning of more serious health problems.

Sometimes falls are truly accidental. Much more often however, falls can be attributable to deteriorating eyesight and hearing, muslce atrophy, reflexes not being as sharp as they used to be, and in particular, increased visual reliance, a phenomena associated with aging. Most drugs will cause a reduced reaction time. In fact meclizine, (aka Antivert), is known for this, and yet, it is the most frequently prescribed drug therapy for dizziness! Many other disorders can play a role, such as diabetes, heart disease, etc.

Now let’s consider osteoporosis, an aspect of aging which makes bones brittle and more likely to break easily. Women tend to suffer from this more than men. Having osteoporosis can mean that even a minor fall might cause considerable injury.

By all means, my motive here is not to have a fear of falling or prevent you from being active. In fact, quite contrary, having an active lifestyle is one of the most important things we can do for ourselves as we age. There are simple ways you can prevent falls. Most of the time, falls and accidents don’t “just happen.” Here are a few hints that will help you avoid falls and fractures:

* Get checked regularly for osteoporosis. Ask your doctor about a bone density test, which shows if your bones are brittle.

* Stay physically active. Plan an exercise regimen that is right for you. Regular exercise makes you stronger and improves muscle strength as well as joint integrity.

* Have your vision and hearing tested frequently. Deterioration in sight and hearing increases risk of fall. Wear your glasses when you are supposed to, and keep them clean. Dirty glasses cause illusions which can cause sudden loss of balance.

* Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of any drug that you take. The #1 side affect of most drugs, even those prescribed for dizziness, is dizziness.

* Get enough sleep. If you are sleepy, you are more likely to fall. Don’t perform high risk activities if you are overtired.

* Limit the amount of alcohol you drink. Even a little can affect your reaction time and cause a fall. Keep this in mind if you are drinking alcohol of any type, and do not perform high risk activities.

* If you feel faint on standing up, tell your doctor. You may be hypotense, or, overmedicated for high blood pressure. If you take meds for your pressure, you should be monitoring your pressure yourself with a home unit daily, and at the same time. Keep a record to show your doctor.

* Perhaps the best thing you can do is getting screened for risk of fall regularly. My office performs this service free of charge as a community service.