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What You Can Learn About Healthcare From the Failure of Fall Prevention Programs

In the spring, I’m presenting to our statewide assisted living association on implementing facility-wide fall prevention policies. I’ve spent a lot of time lately reading through research on fall prevention for older adults.

Fall prevention is one of the most common problems faced by institutions that care for older adultsAccording to the CDC, fall death rates in the US increased by 30% from 2007 to 2016. If this rate continues, it’s anticipated there will be seven fall deaths every hour by 2030. It's obvious the problem is getting worse, despite efforts to prevent avoidable falls.

In my research, I’ve found a few problems. Namely, the discrepancy between what research has found actually works and how falls prevention programs are structured in real life. Not to mention the “fluffy” information available to the general public online.

Not only do most fall prevention programs not work, but we implement policies that have...

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Mobility is the Key to Healthspan

 

“Mobility is the key to survival: this came up again and again in my research.” -Bill Gifford

The medical field of aging is relatively new. It wasn’t until the last century that we saw an exponential increase in human life expectancy and as a result, we’ve only just started to study aging. And there is still a lot of gray area. One thing we know for sure is that there is huge variability in how we age.

And that there is a big difference between lifespan and healthspan. Thanks to modern medicine, we’ve seen a huge increase in lifespan over the last few decades. But unfortunately, that increase in lifespan doesn’t always accompany an increase in quality of life.

And this is where healthspan comes in. Healthspan is how many healthy years we can add to someone’s life. Because really, what’s the point of adding extra years if you can’t enjoy them?

Much of the findings of studies on aging have been...

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Fall Prevention Tips: Why You Need to Practice Falling

 

“Until you actually learn to fall, your nervous system will never truly know that it is actually safe to fall.” -Dr. Shante Cofield

I spend the majority of my time discussing concerns about falls with my clients, so it’s on my mind often. As a physical therapist specializing in empowering adults throughout the aging process, both the future and current risk of falls are the number one concern each of my clients express. And to guide them through this process, I have to help them analyze both the physical and psychological risk factors. Because they both play a major role.

Another one of my roles is to help all adults adopt forms of physical activity and exercise they enjoy. We’ve all heard the health benefits of physical activity, which are created by exposing ourselves to controlled stress. And this defines the actual purpose of exercise, or putting yourself in any uncomfortable situationTo allow your body to adapt by exposing yourself to...

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Book Review: Spring Chicken: Stay Young Forever by Bill Gifford

A few weeks ago I stumbled across a copy of the book Spring Chicken: Stay Young Forever by Bill Gifford. I keep a running list of books related to health and aging, but this one wasn’t on my list and caught my eye. I’m so happy I picked it up. The comprehensive information in the book blew me away. I will summarize a little bit below but I highly recommend picking up a copy.

The author of the book, Bill Gifford, is a journalist who became curious about aging after watching the very different aging trajectories of his great uncle and his grandfather. How could two siblings live such drastically different lives? His great uncle was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and died in his 70’s while his grandfather lived a very active and playful life, still farming into his 90’s when he suddenly passed from an infection. 

Bill Gifford decided do a little investigating of his own. Why do we all age so differently? Is there a way to predict how we will...

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3 Mindsets Preventing You From Improving Your Balance (And What to Do About It)

 

Does your balance seem to keep getting worse no matter what you do? Never feel like you’re making meaningful progress?

If so, you aren’t alone. The inability to both set realistic health goals, especially for balance issues and reach them is one of the most common concerns I hear from my clients at their first therapy visit. And as I get to know them, it’s clear why this is a recurring theme in their lives.

Many of us develop the bad habit of holding on to self-limiting beliefs, as Gay Hendricks does an excellent job of highlighting in The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level. These subconscious mindsets have the potential to limit all areas of our lives and are even more dangerous when we don’t realize we are holding onto them. And you may not realize how often your own hidden beliefs are dictating your life.

Let’s take a closer look at how you’re limiting yourself with your health goals, and what you can do...

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How Your Physical Health Relates to Your Mental Health

Brain health isn't a topic discussed often enough, particularly within the medical community. On the bright side, the topics of mental health and access to mental health services have come to light in the last few years. But, the aging brain is often left out of the conversation.

There are many unanswered questions about the decline in brain health with aging. The medical profession is starting to observe the differences in adults who experience brain atrophy and those who don’t. So, we're gaining some clarity. But, there's still so much we don't know.
 
The research identified some clear patterns in those who receive a diagnosis of dementia. But, keep in mind that patterns don't always give a clear cause. We know fall risk increases with increasing mental decline. We know poor mental health increases the risk of developing dementia. We know a connection exists between muscle weakness and dementia. What isn't as clear is why.
 
This is the 2nd part in a...
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Try This Quick Test for Balance

A quick test for balance: how long are you able to stand on one leg without arm support? 

To set up: keep a chair or something you can hold if needed nearby and stand in front of a mirror with your feet hip width apart, shoes and socks off. Place your hands on your hips, shift your weight to one side and pick your opposite foot off the floor. How long can you hold this position?

An adult around age 30 should be able to comfortably hold this position for 30 seconds. In adults over age 65, an inability to hold this for at least 5 seconds indicates a greater risk of falls. Were you surprised by your results? 

We often get asked why we spend so much time practicing single leg standing in therapy. This skill is important because this is the position we spend the most amount of time in while walking! In order to take a step forward, you have to stand on one leg to allow the other leg to swing forward. If you are having difficulty with single leg standing, it is likely your walking...

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Your Worst Health Habit Is Likely... Your Shoes

One of the most detrimental health habits humans tend to have is something most of us probably never give much thought to, at least in terms of health impact.

It's your shoes. 

For every 1 degree of heel your shoe has, 1 degree of spine, hip, and knee joint reaction is required to compensate…. meaning for every 1 inch of heel your shoe has, it causes 20 degrees of change throughout the joints of the legs and spine!

Think even a modest heel is not a detriment to your health? Think again.

Your footwear choices have a major negative impact on your joint, bone, and muscle health. The amount of joint reaction caused by wearing heels can be contributing to knee and hip osteoarthritis, lumbar disc compression, and even pelvic floor dysfunction (new moms... please avoid heels!). Improper footwear choices are also a common culprit of falls in older adults.

So, believe it or not... one of the biggest impact steps you can take toward improving your health is...

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