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Start of Fall Brings Fall Prevention Day

September 19, 2011

PHOENIX, Ariz. - The start of fall this week brings the annual observance of National Fall Prevention Day. Falls have now replaced car crashes, shootings and stabbings as the number one cause of traumatic injury, especially for those over age 65, experts say.

According to Paula Segebarth, injury prevention coordinator with Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center, Phoenix, the observance is aimed at reducing falls. More than 700 Arizonans died from falls last year, and falls sent more than 115,000 to emergency rooms.

Segebarth notes that women tend to fall more often, but that men are more often killed by falls because they take more risks.

"They are on the roof, trimming trees, putting up lights, cleaning the gutters. Women tend to have osteoporosis, so often they break a bone and then they fall."

Segebarth says the best fall-prevention strategies include modifying your home to make it safer, keeping physically active and managing medications. She warns that some heart and blood pressure medications can cause dizziness if the user stands up too quickly.

Ironically, people who fall and do not get hurt still end up with a higher risk for falling again, she says, because of fear: They limit activities and exercise.

"In becoming more sedentary, they are decreasing their center of balance, they're decreasing their muscle mass. By doing that, they actually put themselves at a higher risk for falling, because once they do get up, they're not as steady."

Segebarth says there are many ways to make a home safer and prevent falls, at little or no cost.

"Pulling up throw rugs is one of the biggest things. In the kitchen, move frequently used items that are on the highest shelf to a lower shelf, so you don't have to use a stepstool."

Walkways should be kept clear of cords and clutter, and lighted at night, she adds.

Banner Good Sam will host a National Fall Prevention Day event Thursday starting at 9:30 a.m. More information is on the Arizona Fall Prevention Coalition website, www.AZStopFalls.org.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ