New guidelines tout exercise to prevent falls

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A new set of guidelines tout exercise, including the slow, controlled movements in martial arts like tai chi, as a way to prevent falls among older adults. Yale Medical Group geriatrician Mary Tinetti, MD, co-chaired a panel of experts who developed the guidelines for the American Geriatrics Society and the British Geriatrics Society. They were published in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Falls are not only associated with significant injury and death in the older population, but are also linked to reduced independence and early admission to long-term care facilities. For older adults, effective fall prevention may reduce fall-related injuries, emergency room visits, hospitalizations, nursing home placements and functional decline.

The new guidelines, which are the first update from a 2001 version, now recommend:

  • Interventions that include exercise for balance, gait and strength training, such as tai chi or physical therapy
  • Reducing fall risk factors in daily activities and in the home, such as adding grab bars in bathrooms or removing any clutter from floors or around stairs
  • Reducing medications, particularly those that affect the brain, such as sleeping medications and antidepressants
  • Elevating blood pressure drops when standing, and managing heart rate and rhythm abnormalities

“There is emerging evidence that the rate of serious fall injuries, such as hip fractures, is decreasing modestly in areas in which fall prevention is integrated into clinical practice,” said Tinetti, who is the director of the Yale Program on Aging. Other experts on the panel hailed from a variety of institutions and disciplines such as physical therapy, pharmacy, orthopedics, emergency medicine, occupational therapy, nursing, home care, and geriatric clinical practice.

This Article was submitted by Mark Santore, on Thursday, January 09, 2014.
Source: Yale Medical Group