Harvard Women's Health Watch

Fall prevention: What works?

Nearly one-third of people ages 65 and older will fall each year, and one in 10 of those falls will lead to a fracture. Over the years, several studies have tried to pinpoint the most effective fall prevention strategies. Recently, a group of researchers reviewed the evidence from 159 fall prevention trials and identified several effective interventions, including these:

  • making home safety modifications (especially those designed by an occupational therapist)

  • performing home-based exercise programs and tai chi

  • having surgery to correct certain conditions—including cataract surgery, and pacemaker insertion in people with carotid sinus hypersensitivity (a condition that causes rapid changes in heart rate and blood pressure)

  • adjusting doses of anxiety and depression medications

  • wearing anti-slip shoes in icy conditions.

Other treatments evaluated either didn't reduce the risk for falls or increased it. For example, changing an eyeglass prescription increased the risk for falls. Taking vitamin D supplements didn't prevent falls, except in people who had low levels of the vitamin.

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