Here’s an eye-opening statistic: In Wisconsin, deaths from falls outnumber deaths from breast and prostate cancer combined.1 Wisconsin recorded 1,383 deadly falls in 2017 alone within its elderly population. Roughly one-third of Wisconsin’s fatal falls can be attributed to alcohol use.
Wisconsin leads the nation
A recent Wisconsin State Journal series on fatal falls2 is raising awareness of this growing public health issue. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),3 Wisconsin’s elderly population has the nation’s highest rate of deadly falls, which is more than double the national average. Minnesota is not far behind. There is no one reason for this excessive fall rate, but contributing factors include –
- Harsh Midwest winters that bring slippery sidewalks
- An older population, which is projected to increase
- Better tracking and reporting of falls
- Excessive drinking
What can older adults do to prevent falls? The CDC recommends a four-step approach4 –
- Talk to your doctor. Make sure medications (including over-the-counter medications) aren’t affecting your steadiness. As we get older, medications affect our body differently and may be less safe to continue taking. For example, most medications used to help with sleep can increase the risk of falls. Work with your doctor to get off these medications. Also, ask your doctor about vitamin D supplements to improve bone, muscle, and nerve health.
- Keep moving. Regularly activity can improve your strength and balance. Check with your local health care provider to see if classes are available or start doing a simple and safe exercise routine at home.
- Get checked out head-to-toe. Some falls are caused by eye conditions, while others may be caused by improper footwear.
- Fall-proof your home. Install handrails for all stairs, put away clutter that can be a trip hazard, and improve your lighting. In the bathroom: remove small throw rugs, use non-slip bath mats and install grab bars next to the bath and toilet.
For more ways to fall-proof your home, download a home safety checklist and other resources at cdc.gov/steadi
Are you ready to change?
- Join a proven fall prevention program. You can find a nearby offering at ncoa.org
- Quartz’s Health Coaching team* can help. Call (866) 884-4601 to get started or visit QuartzBenefits.com/healthcoaching for more details on this valuable plan benefit.
*The health coaching program is not available to State of Wisconsin Group Health Insurance Program members.
1 American Cancer Society, “Cancer Facts & Figures 2016,” (accessed March 29, 2019), available at cancer.org.
2 Wisconsin State Journal, “Special report | Fatal falls: Wisconsin leads nation in deadly problem,” (Posted March 5, 2019, accessed March 29, 2019), available at madison.com/wsj/news.
3 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Deaths from Falls Among Persons Aged >65 Years — United States, 2007-2016,” (accessed March 29, 2019), available at cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/67/wr/mm6718a1.htm