Ever since the National Council on Aging declared the first day of fall to be National Fall Prevention Awareness Day, Valley Assistance Services has been involved.

   Executive Director of VAS Chris Kang and R.N. Chris Erickson coordinated a free morning program designed to prevent falls on Saturday that included Dr. Francisco Rivera of Northwest Allied Physicians, Patti Daugherty of Taste of Tai Chi, Roni Abbott of Vista Eye Care, and Dr. Babak Nayeri of Arizona Department of Health Services. The program at Valley Presbyterian Church brought 140 attendees.

Rivera explained how genetics and osteoporosis affect susceptibility to falls. As people age there is a reduction in bone mass that leads to more fragile bones. This affects both sexes and all races.

   A deficit of bone mass reduces bone strength and is further affected by genetics, age, nutrition, exercise, body build and habits including smoking, alcohol, carbonated drinks and exposure to the sun.

   Osteoporosis causes backaches, loss of height and may lead to kyphosis (bending over). It may be diagnosed by a DEXA (dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry) scan.

   Rivera advised seniors at high risk for fractures to have a DEXA scan every one or two years.

Tai Chi demonstration

   Jerry Daugherty told the audience Tai Chi allows you to move without hurting yourself while also allowing your mind to focus.

   Tai Chi instructor Patti Daugherty, along with students from her class, demonstrated two forms for the audience and led one participatory form engaging the entire audience.

   Nayeri’s talk focused on medications, side effects and how they may affect falls. He said more people die in Arizona from misuse and abuse of prescription painkillers than car crashes.

   Focusing on increased sensitivity to drugs that occurs with aging, he said reduced doses are generally recommended. Alcohol, in combination with drugs, can cause a variety of negative reactions.

   Nayeri quoted one statistic indicating 35 percent of 85-to-89 year olds take 10 or more medications daily.

   Freeport-McMoRan has awarded a $100,000 grant to Valley Assistance Services to focus on the next stage of the Safety and Health in Motion (SHiM) program. It goes into effect in January and may include safety improvements of grab bars installed for qualified SHiM participants.

Contact Green Valley freelance reporter Ellen Sussman at ellen2414@cox.net.


Fall facts

•According to the Centers for Disease Control, one in three people 65 and over fall each year; 95 percent of hip fractures are caused by falls.

●There were 2.3 million non-fatal falls in the U.S in 2010; 662,000 required hospitalization.

●National surveys indicate 50 percent of falls occur in the home and are due to poor lighting, clutter, loose rugs and lack of grab bars in tubs and showers.  

•Experts say the following habits help reduce risk of falling:

   Exercise. It makes you stronger and improves balance.

   Get up slowly after sitting or lying down. Getting up too quickly can make a person dizzy.

   Have vision checked yearly. Poor vision and poor depth perception increase risk of falls.

   Check with physician or pharmacist to review all drugs used. Some drugs may lead to dizziness and increased risk of a fall.

   Have a safety assessment done of your home. SHiM provides this service. Call 520-625-5966.

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