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Falls remain the leading cause of injury death for older Americans, threaten seniors’ safety and independence and generate enormous economic and personal costs. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Injury Center monitors falls, fall-related injuries, and associated costs, reporting that one-fourth of Americans over the age of 65 fall every year. Furthermore, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall every 11 seconds. Every 19 seconds, an older adult dies from a fall. Annually, falls result in more than 2.8 million injuries treated in emergency departments, including over 800,000 hospitalizations and more than 27,700 deaths.

Adjusted for inflation, the annual direct medical costs for fall injuries are $31 billion. Hospital costs account for two-thirds of the total. And by 2020, the annual direct and indirect cost of fall injuries is expected to reach $67.7 billion.

According to the National Council on Aging, falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for older Americans. Falls threaten seniors’ safety and independence and generate enormous economic and personal costs. However, falling is not an inevitable result of aging. Here’s six steps you can do to take control of your health:

• Find a good balance and exercise program. Look to build balance, strength and flexibility. Contact Pima Council on Aging for referrals. Find a program you like and take a friend.

• Talk to your health care provider. Ask for an assessment of your risk of falling. Share your history of recent falls.

• Regularly review your medications with your doctor and pharmacist. Make sure side effects aren’t increasing your risk of falling. Take medications only as prescribed.

• Get your vision and hearing checked annually and update your eyeglasses. Your eyes and ears are key to keeping you on your feet.

• Keep your home safe. Remove tripping hazards, increase lighting, make stairs safe, and install grab bars in key areas.

• Talk to your family members. Enlist their support in taking simple steps to stay safe. Falls are not just a seniors’ issue.

The Drexel Heights Fire District Board meets on the third Friday of each month at 9 a.m. in the training classroom next to Station # 1, located at 5030 S. Camino Verde. Tracy Koslowski is the Drexel Heights Fire District Public Education/Information Manager.

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