BY DR. SASCHA DUBLIN
ABOUT ONE IN three
people over age 65 will
hurt themselves by falling down. Of those falls,
one in 10 causes a serious injury that leads to a
hospital stay or even
death. Even after leaving
the hospital, people with
serious injuries from falls might spend
months recovering in a long-term care facility, and many are not able to return to their
homes, according to government data.
Among seniors who take a major fall, two-thirds will fall again within six months.
Preventing falls helps seniors live better
lives and enables them to live in their own
homes and in their communities. A combination of health checkups, active living and
simple preventive measures can help reduce
the number of serious injuries. That’s one reason health experts promote National Fall
Prevention Month in September.
Seniors are encouraged to stay active to
help them maintain their balance and keep
muscles strong. Many people don’t realize how
much improvement they may see through
becoming more physically active. Group
Health, a member-governed, nonprofit health
care system based in Seattle, recommends pre-
ventive steps as people age, including exer-
cise—and not just any exercise, but activities
that can improve strength, balance and coordi-
nation. The ancient practice of tai chi is at the
top of my list, but there are others. For instance,
randomized trials studying 90-year-olds who
performed very gentle weightlifting in the gym
found they received substantial benefits from
just small amounts of this gentle weightlifting
to strengthen leg muscles.
Another way to prevent falls is to use balance aids such as canes or walkers as often as
needed. People should make sure to receive
training to use them correctly. Using a hand-me-down piece of equipment that isn’t the
right size or height can put people at a greater
risk of a fall.
Doctors should review medications
seniors are taking to eliminate any combinations that could cause dizziness or confusion.
It’s also a good idea to pick up area rugs, move
cords out of walkways and consider installing
handrails in tricky halls and bathrooms.
Additional tips to stay safe include:
Take your time. Get up slowly after you’ve
been sitting or lying down to avoid getting
dizzy. When planning to go somewhere, leave
enough time to get there so you won’t have to
rush if you’re running late.
Get help when you need it. Ask for help
from a family member or friend, or hire someone to do jobs you used to do such as climbing ladders, cleaning cupboards or changing
lightbulbs around the house.
Wear clothes you can’t trip over. You
can easily trip over or step on clothing such
as slacks or a long robe. This can be especially dangerous while you’re walking or
Make sure your shoes don’t trip you up.
The best shoes have nonskid soles. Athletic
shoes are a good choice for most activities.
Wear shoes both inside and outside the
house. Don’t walk around barefoot or in
stocking feet. C
Dr. Sascha Dublin is a board-certified internist
at Group Health Cooperative in Seattle.
PROSTATE CANCER IS the second most
common cause of cancer for men in the U.S.
Nearly 3 million men are currently living
with the disease, and it will take the lives of
more than 29,000 men this year, according to
the Prostate Cancer Foundation.
The prostate is a small walnut-size gland
that is part of the reproductive system. It
makes fluid that is part of semen and is
located in a man’s pelvis, below the bladder.
Who is at risk for prostate cancer?
The major risk factors for prostate cancer
Age. The older a man gets, the greater
the risk. After age 50 the risk increases substantially. The majority of prostate cancers are
found at age 65 or older.
Race. African-American men are 56
percent more likely to develop prostate cancer, and are 2. 5 times more likely to die from
the disease than Caucasians.
Family history. A man is twice as likely to
develop prostate cancer if his father and brother
had the disease; that risk increases if more family members had the disease, or if the disease
occurred in relatives younger than 55.
Where you live. Men living in northern
cities in the U.S. (north of 40 degrees latitude)
have a higher risk of dying from prostate cancer than those in other locations.
Diet. Obesity and a diet high in fat may
increase the risk of developing prostate cancer.
Early prostate problem signs
Many men experience no signs or symp-
toms of prostate cancer, with the disease diag-
nosed as part of a routine checkup. For others,
changes in urinary or sexual functions might
indicate the presence of prostate cancer.
Watch for and immediately report the follow-
ing signs to your doctor:
• Need to urinate frequently,
especially at night.
• Difficulty starting urination.
• Weak or interrupted urine flow.
• Painful or burning urination.
• Difficulty having an erection.
• Painful ejaculation.
• Blood in urine or semen.
• Frequent pain or stiffness in lower
back, hips, thighs.
Steady as you go
CONTINUED ON PAGE 53
Tips for preventing falls
FOR YOUR HEALTH
Dr. Sascha Dublin