Falls are a serious matter. In fact, falls and fall-related injuries are among the most dangerous health risks older adults face today. Falling can cause bruising, fractures, and other serious injuries that lead to loss of independence for older adults. According to the National Institute on Aging, 1 in 4 American adults over the age of 65 falls each year.
The good news is, most falls are preventable. New fall-related research is helping older adults and their care providers identify why falls occur so they can take steps to minimize the risks.
For example, one recent study looked at the leading causes of falls and the role gender plays in falls and fall-related injuries. As it turns out, men and women face very different fall risks, and the ways in which they fall are different, too.
Here’s a closer look at how fall risks and statistics differ among men and women:
Women face a greater fall risk than men
When compared to men, women face a 50% greater risk of falls and non-fatal fall-related injuries. Researchers believe that hormone-related changes associated with menopause are one of the reasons women are more likely to fall than men. These hormone changes often lead to reduced bone mass and the early onset of osteoporosis in women. Because they have more fragile bones, when older women do fall, they’re more likely to sustain fractures.
Men have a higher rate of fatal falls
While women fall more often than men, research finds men are slightly more likely to pass away as a result of fall-related injuries, such as a head injury. It could be that when men fall, they are typically older than their female counterparts, and the danger of falls increases with age.
Women are more likely to fall due to a trip or stumble
In a study that used video recordings to determine the leading causes of falls among men and women, women were more likely than men to fall by tripping or stumbling. The most common activity for women at the time of falling was walking (40.3% of women compared to 29.2% of men).
Men are more likely to fall due to loss of support
The same study found that men were 12.1% more likely than women to fall from loss of support with an object, like a cane or chair. Moreover, men were more likely than women to fall while moving into a seated position versus getting up or rising.
Fall prevention strategies
While men and women may fall differently, there are steps everyone can take to improve their balance and reduce the chances of falling.
Here are some senior fall prevention tips to keep in mind:
- Stay active. Try low-impact activities like walking or Tai Chi to increase strength and balance.
- Practice “sit-to-stand” exercises every day to improve balance and mobility.
- Improve the lighting in your home to prevent trips and stumbles. Install brighter bulbs and use night lights in hallways.
- Drink plenty of water to avoid dizziness caused by dehydration.
- Eliminate tripping hazards around the home like loose area rugs or unsecured cords. Make sure there are secure rails on all stairs.
- Modify bathrooms with grab bars and consider using a shower chair.
- Ask your doctor about using a cane or walker and make sure it is the right size for you.
- Wear non-skid, rubber-soled shoes with a low heel.
- Schedule check-ups with your doctor. Have your eyes and hearing tested and ask if any of the medications you’re taking might increase your risk of falling.
Knowing the leading causes of falls, including the differences among men and women, can help us minimize the risks so the older loved ones in our lives can stay active and independent for longer. At Bethany Village, we’re proud to offer evidence-based fall prevention programs that help residents improve strength, maintain balance, and stay mobile. For more senior fall prevention tips and strategies, visit the STEADY U Ohio website.