How to Prevent Dangerous Falls for Seniors

August 18, 2021

Aging comes with numerous challenges, most of which can be overcome with a good diet, plenty of exercise, and regular visits with your AltaMed physician.

However, one challenge that can be devastating is falling. It is the leading cause of injury among older adults with more than one in three people over the age of 65 falling each year. The risk of falling and the related injuries go up as we continue to age.

Sometimes the fear of falling is so great that is keeps seniors from leaving the house, participating in normal activities, or even getting together with friends and family. But there are some simple things you can do to help reduce your risk of falling and the related injuries.

Woman

Preventing falls and injuries

Taking care of your overall health is one way to help reduce the risk of falling. It’s also a good way to reduce the risk of injury, should you fall. Other things you can do include:

  • Stay physically active
  • Get eyes and hearing tested
  • Keep your bones strong
  • Get enough sleep
  • Limit alcohol intake
  • Report the side effects of any medicine
  • Stand up slowly
  • Use a cane or walker to help feel steady
  • Wear non-skid, rubber-soled, low-heeled shoes
  • Be careful on wet or icy surfaces
  • Tell your doctor if you’ve fallen, even if you didn’t hurt yourself
  • Make sure your home is lit well
  • Add grab bars near the toilet or shower
  • Tape down rugs or cords

Man

Falls by the numbers

Millions of older Americans fall every year. Falling once doubles the chances of falling again.
Falls are serious and more often they result in death. The death rate from falls increased 30% from 2007 to 2016. At that pace, there will be seven fall deaths an hour by 2030.

  • One out of five falls result in a serious injury like broken bones or a head injury.
  • Three million older people are treated in emergency rooms for fall injuries.
  • More than 800,000 people are hospitalized because of a fall injury.
  • Hip fractures put at least 300,000 older people in the hospital each year.
  • More than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falling, usually sideways.
  • Traumatic brain injuries in seniors are most often caused by falls.

Walker Senior

The risk factors

We fall for a variety of reasons. There is always something at the core of why people fall. Knowing those reasons can help us reduce the risk factors that lead to falls. Those factors include:

  • Lower body weakness
  • Not enough vitamin D
  • Walking difficulties
  • Medications that cause dizziness
  • Poor vision
  • Foot pain
  • Wrong shoes
  • Broken or uneven steps
  • Clutter on the floor

Helping you as you age

Seniors need special care to ensure their health, wellbeing, and independence. AltaMed Senior Services offers a wide range of medical, dental and support services for seniors in our community. Our physicians and staff will work with you and your family to create a care plan that meets your needs. AltaMed is committed to offering care with dignity and respect and providing access to services that will help you grow healthy, no matter your age.

To get started with AltaMed senior services and care, call (888) 499-9303.

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Grow Healthy at Every Age with Recommended Health Screenings for Seniors

March 18, 2021

Thanks in large part to improved medical care and changes in how most of us work, people are living longer. Someone born today is expected to live until they’re 77.8 years old.

How well you age depends largely on how well you live. A big part of that includes getting regular preventive health screenings for general physical health, cancer, and mental capacity.

 No matter how old you are, AltaMed can help you grow healthy with caring, attentive service and age-appropriate care. Read on to learn about the screenings and routine visits that are recommended for seniors. 

Hands senior screenings

Physical Screenings

Screenings can help you stay on top of chronic illnesses: if you do have a condition, it’s best to catch it early as treatment might not need to be as aggressive or invasive, and costs could be less. 

Recommended physical screenings include:

  • Blood pressure — Almost half of all adults have high blood pressure, so it’s important to have yours checked at least once a year (or as often as your doctor recommends).
  • Cholesterol — Many people are able to reduce their cholesterol with a healthy diet and exercise, but sometimes medication is needed. 
  • Obesity — Being obese is hard on the heart, liver, and joints and puts you at risk for serious conditions.
  • Blood glucose and Type 2 Diabetes — Medicare covers screenings in people with one or more risk factors.
  • Vision Your eyes change with age  and you run the risk of developing glaucoma, macular degeneration, dry eyes, and loss of peripheral vision.
  • Abdominal aortic aneurysm — This is a standard check of the heart for men 65 to 75, who have smoked.
  • Osteoporosis — Bone-density tests are covered once every two years for women over 65. Post-menopausal women younger than 65 should also be screened.
  • Hepatitis C — Medicare covers at least one screening for adults born specifically between 1945 and 1965.
  • HIV — Older adults at higher risk include people with multiple partners, men who have had sex with other men, and people with past and present injection drug use.
  • Other STIs — Sexually active adults at all ages should be screened regularly.

Cancer screening senior

Cancer screenings

Age is a leading risk factor in a number of cancer types, though it’s not really clear why. So, it’s incredibly important to get screened. A number of cancers are easily detectible and can be treated successfully if diagnosed early.

  • Colorectal cancer — Routine screening should start at 50 unless there is a family history. Then it should be earlier and more often. Otherwise, a colonoscopy is recommended every 10 years.
  • Breast cancer — Medicare covers screening mammograms every 12 months.
  • Cervical cancer — Older women who have never been screened should have a Pap smear at least once. Women at high risk should have one every 12 months. 
  • Lung cancer This screening is recommended for adults aged 55-80 who were heavy smokers (about 30-packs a year) or who quit in the last 15 years.
  • Prostate cancer — Men can choose between a digital rectal exam or a prostate-specific antigen test. Screenings are recommended between 55 and 69 years of age.

Doctor with tablet senior

Mental and safety screenings

When your AltaMed doctor asks questions about your life and what’s been on your mind, it’s not just to be polite: they may be looking for clues about your mood, mental state, and mental sharpness. These are delicate topics, but your answers can help identify:

  • Depression — The goal is to make sure you are not on a path that could lead to harming yourself or others. Therapy, medication, or a combination can help control depression.
  • Cognitive impairment — Cognitive Impairment is when a person has trouble remembering, learning new things, concentrating, or making decisions that affect their everyday life, and ranges from mild to severe. Doctors want to ensure you can still function in your current living situation. This may require input from a caregiver.
  • Falls and functional ability — Part of Medicare’s Annual Wellness Visit includes looking at the ability to manage the activities of daily living. Doctors will ask questions about mobility and the risk of falling which could lead to a traumatic brain injury (TBI) or breaking a hip, wrist, or some other joint. 
  • Substance use — Someone who has been drinkingsmoking or doing drugs their entire life will eventually pay the price for it. Answer honestly about alcohol, tobacco, and recreational drug use.

PACE Yourself with AltaMed

Making these screenings a regular part of your healthy habits could help you feel great and stay independent for longer. Talk to your doctor to get their personalized recommendations.

If you’re a caregiver or a senior with complex medical needs, AltaMed PACE offers coordinated care and services, including medical treatment, physical therapy, and social services. The program even offers meals, exercise, social activities, and transportation for qualified seniors. 

There are 11 AltaMed PACE facilities in the greater Los Angeles area including two new locations in Orange County:

Anaheim
1325 N. Anaheim Blvd., Suite 100
Anaheim, California 92801

Santa Ana
3601 W. Sunflower Ave., Suite 100
Santa Ana, California 92704

AltaMed PACE has made a difference for seniors like Antonio, Kenneth, and Rodolfo and Bertha – it may be right for you, too. 

For more information about services or eligibility, visit AltaMed.org/PACE or call (855) 252-PACE (7223).

Don’t Ignore Blood Pressure, Control It

July 19, 2021

More than 100 million people — or half the adults — in the United States have high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. It means their heart works harder than necessary to move blood through the body.

Uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to heart disease, heart attacks, stroke, heart failure, kidney problems, vision loss, sexual dysfunction, and dementia.

Hypertension has been called “the silent killer” because there are no obvious symptoms. The only way to know you have high blood pressure is to get it checked regularly.
Couple running

Know how to manage risks

Being overweight makes your heart work harder. Eating a high-cholesterol diet does too. If you don’t exercise, and you smoke, drink too much, eat a salty diet, and generally don’t take care of yourself, you’re a prime candidate for high blood pressure.

The good news is you can control those factors.

  • Stop using tobacco: Smoking, dipping, chewing and vaping all raise your blood pressure.
  • Exercise regularly: Just 30 minutes of brisk walking three days a week helps reduce blood pressure.
  • Cut back on salt: Eating fewer processed or fast foods will help reduce your salt intake.
  • Lose some weight: Extra pounds make your heart work harder. Cutting out the calorie-dense snacks is the best way to lose weight. AltaMed has registered dieticians who can help you create a healthful eating plan.
  • Cut back on caffeine: Try having one less cup of coffee per day to start.
  • Reduce stress: Find ways to eliminate some obligations or create some calm time for yourself.

family blood pressure

Some factors you can’t control

While staying healthy plays a huge role in controlling or even avoiding high blood pressure, you can’t escape who you are. Your family history plays a role in whether or not you face increased risk for high blood pressure. It also affects African Americans more frequently.

Hypertension affects more Black adults (54%) than any other group. High blood pressure also develops earlier in life and is more severe. There are a number of theories about why this happens including the higher rates of obesity and diabetes among African Americans. There may also be a gene that makes African Americans more sensitive to salt, which boosts blood pressure.

Control of blood pressure among Black adults is also lower (25%) than it is among non-Hispanic white adults (32%). Among Hispanic adults only 25% have their blood pressure under control, but among Asian adults it’s only 19%.

Racial disparities in the access to treatment and care have been cited as factors in the frequency and management of high blood pressure. Some groups have limited access to jobs that provide health insurance, so they don’t have access to regular doctors who could help them identify their conditions, or professionals who could help them monitor or control their hypertension. In Southern California, qualifying residents have AltaMed to provide that support.
Woman blood pressure

Hypertension in women

High blood pressure affects men slightly more often than it affects women. However, women face special circumstances that can lead to high blood pressure. A woman’s chance of developing hypertension goes up being just 20 pounds overweight.

They’re also at greater risk once they have reached menopause. In menopause, the woman has gone at least a year without having a period. Blood pressure goes up along with the “bad cholesterol” and certain fats in the blood. “Good” cholesterol declines or stays the same.

Women with perfectly healthy blood pressure can develop hypertension during pregnancy. It effects one in 25 pregnancies and usually goes away after delivery. But if it’s not controlled, it can be life-threatening for the mother and baby.

Mounting (Blood) Pressure

If you have high blood pressure or think you might, regular checkups can ensure it stays in an acceptable range or take action if it’s not. Some people may need medication to control their blood pressure but making healthy lifestyle changes should always be the first course of action.

Learn how to get started with AltaMed or call us at (888) 499-9303.