Exercise beats vitamin supplements as defense against falls for seniors

Exercise beats vitamin supplements as defense against falls for seniors

Geriatric care experts say one-third of Americans over age 65 living at home will have a fall, and nearly two-thirds will fall more than once. It’s the leading cause of injury for senior citizens.

For seniors, the consequences of a fall can be devastating. Older women are more often injured from a fall, but men are more likely to die. Within a year, more than half of all elderly people who fracture a hip from a fall will require help with activities of daily living, and nearly 30 percent will die.

Faced with these sobering statistics, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force — which reviews the effectiveness of preventive care services based on evidence of benefits and harms — has released new guidelines on ways for older adults to avoid, and survive, potentially crippling falls.

One of the group’s most interesting steps was to reverse its recommendation that those over 65 take vitamin D, calcium or combined supplements daily as a way to strengthen their bones. The group said there is little evidence to show the benefits of the supplements outweigh the risks, such as a higher incidence of kidney stones.

The report stressed clinicians should make care decisions based on the patient and situation. The group also said the recommendations do not apply to those with a history of osteoporotic fractures, increased risk for falls, or a diagnosis of osteoporosis or vitamin D deficiency.

People over 65, the experts said, should engage in a fall-prevention program that includes strength training, flexibility training, balance exercises and endurance or aerobic exercise. You might not be able to keep from falling, but you can help your body bounce back better.

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