Experts are calling the findings of a new CDC study on seniors, brain injuries and falls “striking.”
According to some new data released by the agency, if you’re over a certain age, you’re in the “falling club” — and likely to end up in the ER, be admitted to the hospital — or worse — all due to taking a trip or a stumble.
The agency claims the high numbers it found of concussions and brain injuries in the elderly — an increase of almost 80 percent for those 75 and older during the past decade — is a real mystery.
They give a bunch of reasons, all logical explanations of why someone might take a tumble, but they missed the biggest one of all.
And this number-one way to prevent falling is something you have complete control over.
The shocking results of this new CDC study on seniors and concussions started out as an investigation into an increase in head injuries in general.
With all of the focus on kids getting concussions while playing sports, the researchers thought at first that was why the numbers had spiked — doctors are just keeping better track of children who suffered head injuries.
But that wasn’t the case.
“When we dug a little bit more into the numbers,” said Matt Breiding, who co-authored the CDC report, “we found the larger driver is older adult falls.”
Now, if you’re waiting for the experts at the CDC to provide some kind of logical explanation for this big rise, you’ll probably have a very long wait. The theories they offered up — such as bad vision, being frail or having a dizzy spell — are all reasonable, but don’t explain why the numbers would spike so much during the last ten years.
To find the real smoking gun, you need to look at another recent study — one I told you about just last month.
In the time period between 2004 and 2013, which is almost exactly the same time frame for that rise in falls, drug use by older Americans doubled. And in some rural locations, it’s actually tripled!
Now, I’m not talking about drugs like aspirin or antacids, but heavy-duty, brain altering meds that can easily cause dizziness and an altered mental state that can lead to taking a fall. Ones such as Prozac, sleeping meds like Ambien and tranquilizers such as Valium.
One expert commented that he “was stunned” by those findings.
That study, done by researchers at the University of Michigan and the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System, derived its data from doctors’ own office records, and because of that, they were able to discover another shocking fact.
Half of the seniors who were being given prescriptions for these drugs didn’t tell their doctors about any medical condition that would justify taking them. They didn’t go to their doctor because of pain, insomnia, or depression. And yet they’re being doled out these drugs like candy.
It’s a prescription for disaster.
Those meds I mentioned above aren’t the only ones that can significantly up your chances of taking a tumble. The list is a long one, and some of the top contenders include:
- sleeping pills,
- benzo drugs for anxiety, such as Xanax (alprazolam) and Klonopin (clonazepam), and
- OTC meds, including Tylenol PM and Benadryl.
Drugs to lower your blood pressure are also high on the list of meds that can create the perfect storm for dizziness resulting in a fall — especially if you get out of bed too quickly.
The bottom line is if you don’t want to become another statistic for the CDC to analyze at some future time, you must do everything in your power to keep from falling.
That includes things like being careful with new or stronger glasses, eliminating trip hazards in your home and taking balance exercises, such as Tai Chi or yoga.
And last, but certainly not least, ditch any unnecessary and risky drugs that can literally knock you off your feet.
“Head injuries, concussions from falls rising fast among seniors, study finds” The Associated Press, March 17, 2017, CBS News, cbsnews.com