Why So Many People Are Suffering and What You Can Do About It!

 

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The study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta indicates that brain injuries account for half of the deaths of elderly people who have fallen. This study is the first comprehensive look at the connection between deadly falls and brain injuries in older Americans, according to a report by the Daily Press.

The deaths of 16,000 elderly people in 2005 that listed unintentional falls as the underlying cause of death were examined during the CDC study. Researchers found that a bit more than half of these deaths could be attributed to brain injuries. Other deaths were due to a variety of causes, including heart failure, stroke, infections, and existing chronic conditions made worse by a broken hip or other injuries sustained in a fall.

Previous research by the CDC indicates a troubling trend—the U.S. death rate among the elderly due to falls is increasing dramatically. Since the 1990s, this rate has risen by about 55 percent. The new study by the CDC points out that brain injuries are an important factor in these deaths.

One in three Americans aged 65 and older fall each year. Statistics show that 30 percent of these falls require medical treatment. For elderly people, a fall can be much more traumatic and cause more severe injuries than for a younger person, especially when an elderly person hits their head during a fall. Such injuries can be massive because veins and arteries are easily torn. These injuries can cause bleeding in the head and on the brain, which can be fatal. Commonly prescribed medications for elderly people can actually make the bleeding even more severe.

If an elderly person falls and sustains a blow to the head, the injuries may not be immediately apparent. Some people may have a brain injury without losing consciousness and can even be alert and talkative. All head injuries should be considered serious, and medical attention should be sought after any fall that involves a blow to the head.

The CDC study also found that the rate of fall-related brain injuries resulting in death and hospitalization increases with age. About 8 percent of hospital stays for nonfatal falls of elderly people involve brain injuries.

To prevent falls and reduce the chance of brain injuries or death, elderly people are encouraged to exercise to increase leg strength and balance. Vision should be checked regularly so that senior citizens can avoid obstacles and prevent falls. Also, special care should be used when taking medications that may affect balance, thinking, and coordination.

WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT

Physicians should be surveying all their patients on their regular (non-balance-problem) visits.

They should also be testing them for potential balance problems with fall assessment equipment.

Then, if appropriate, they should be testing/diagnosing their patients using a Videonystagmography (VNG) system.

 

[Click here to find out about the problem and how it affects you and your patients.]