The No. 1 cause of dangerous falls among elderly Americans

If you’re an elderly adult, the simple walk to your car could potentially result in a serious, life-changing fall. And the older you are, the greater your risk. In fact, about 30 percent of people over age 65 — and 50 percent of people age 90 and over — suffer serious falls every year.

Plus, a new study found the number of patients over age 90 admitted to the hospital after experiencing a fall has increased by 100 percent over the past 20 years. Of course, I suspect these grim statistics relate directly to the vast numbers of Americans who take more than one prescription drug.

Fortunately, you can outsmart “old age” and all its usual trappings by following a few simple steps, as I’ll explain in a moment.

Falling leads to long-term consequences in older adults

According to the new study’s lead author, Dr. Andres X. Samayoa, “older adults are at increased risk of falling and undergoing significant injuries, even with trauma as simple as falling from standing or falling from bed.”

Dr. Samayoa serves as chief resident at Abington Hospital, which is a part of what is now the Jefferson Health and Einstein Healthcare Network in Philadelphia.

I remember speaking at Abington Hospital about 20 years ago and was impressed by its orientation and commitment to the community it served. I later served as a medical director in the Jefferson Healthcare system in Philadelphia at the time. Eight years after I spoke there, Jefferson Health absorbed this great community hospital. And everything went downhill.

It’s a shame, really.

The care of older Americans should be at the forefront here (and everywhere, really), as Abington Hospital serves a mainly aging population. Sadly, many of the talented, young adults and middle-aged adults have fled for greener pastures. The “places in the sun” in Philly remain dominated by an old-line elite.

They periodically bring in young talent to prop up their slowly declining institutions, but with the edict, “fix everything, but don’t change anything.”

Then, they push out those young, vigorous, creative professionals, once they’ve restored their institutions for them. (When I was recruited back to Philadelphia in 1995, I felt like a member of the Indian Civil Service brought in to prop up the remnants of the British Empire.)

100 percent increase in falls over 20 years

For the new study, Dr. Samayoa and his colleagues analyzed data for patients over age 90 admitted to Abingdon Hospital between 1996 and 2015 after experiencing falls.

Overall, 1,697 patients over age 90 were admitted to the hospital following falls during this time frame — a 100 percent increase from 20 years prior.

Plus, nearly 100 percent of the patients suffered blunt traumatic injuries as a result of the falls. The patients reported falling from steps, beds, and chairs. Some of them fell just by standing up.

Experts call this kind of blunt trauma “low-velocity” or “low-energy” trauma, compared to the “high-velocity” trauma seen in motor vehicle accidents, for example. But it can still cause severe damage among this often-frail older age group.

In the first 10 years of the study, the most common injuries occurred to the arms and back (spine). Then, in the decade following, the most common injuries were to ribs, pelvis, and legs. Not to mention, more than 20 percent of the patients also suffered head injuries with intracranial bleeding, which can be fatal.

As I learned as a Medical Examiner, you should always examine the head (including imaging studies) whenever someone experiences a fall, especially if no one witnessed the fall.

The new study’s researchers also noted the association of “co-morbidities” in older people. In other words, if the presence of chronic diseases — such as diabetes, heart disease, lung diseases, osteoporosis, and other conditions — contributed to the patients’ falls.

Of course, people who suffer from these chronic conditions also take drugs — and lots of them…

Too many drugs lead to too many falls

Indeed, polypharmacy (taking multiple drugs together) commonly causes confusion, which contributes to falls.

Even overmedicating with high doses of just one drug can cause serious problems. In fact, as I explained last month, many doctors overmedicate older patients with Type II diabetes, resulting in abnormally low blood sugar and falls.

Another contributor to the increase in falls is the fact that many physicians don’t adjust doses blood pressure and heart medications as patients get older. This is downright dangerous.

And last but not least, as I explained last month, studies show the burgeoning use of COPD drugs is causing more fractures, and also resulting in more falls.

No wonder nearly half of older people over 90 experience dangerous, life-threatening falls every year! I also strongly suspect that nearly 100 percent of these older Americans take one or more of the drugs I mentioned.

On the contrary, increasing numbers of people now use natural approaches to prevent and reverse the common chronic conditions that cause premature aging and death. Conditions like cancer, Type II diabetes, heart disease, and lung diseases. And, guess what — they’re “making it” to age 90 and beyond!

You can learn all about the simple, natural strategies to stay vibrant, youthful, and healthy well into your 70s, 80s, 90s — and beyond — in my brand new protocol, The Insider’s Ultimate Guide to Outsmarting “Old Age.” If you’d like to be one of the first classes of scholars to enroll, or if you’d just like to learn more, simply click here.



“Have outcomes improved in trauma patients age 90 years and older over the past decade: Experience at a level II trauma center,” Am J Surg. 2018 Mar 9. pii: S0002-9610(17)31016-4