Scientists from the American Heart Association suggest that falls pose a major risk to people with heart problems, and health experts need to do more to understand and prevent the danger.
They are associated with serious injuries, and just the fear of falling can limit a person’s quality of life. And falls are particularly common in adults with health diseases.
The research is published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes and was conducted by Dr. Sarah Goodlin et al.
A previous study estimated that 60% faced a moderate to high risk of falling. That’s based on records from 2,456 people hospitalized with heart disease in one Minnesota county.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says about 36 million falls are reported among older adults each year.
About 3 million of those who fall will end up in an emergency room for treatment, and more than 32,000 will die.
Problems can persist even after someone has recovered and becomes afraid of falling again, Goodlin said.
That can start a vicious cycle where older adults with cardiovascular problems become less active and more prone to problems.
Heart problems can lead to falls both directly and indirectly.
A heart rhythm problem, for example, might cause blood pressure to dip, which could cause someone to lose consciousness.
Fall risks also could be higher in someone with diabetes, who might have foot numbness from neuropathy, or in someone recovering from a stroke, who might have weakness on one side.
The report says people with heart failure, a condition in which the heart and circulation do not circulate blood adequately, and irregular heartbeats called arrhythmias might be at higher risk of falling than those without these conditions.
Medications to treat cardiovascular conditions can cause side effects such as dizziness, blurred vision, confusion or other problems.
The team says people can be embarrassed to admit they fell. So, a “really simple” first step for a health care team would be simply asking patients about falls.
Health care professionals should also watch patients walk, and if they seem off-balance, consider sending them to a physical therapist for a more in-depth evaluation.
For patients, the most important thing is to be honest with their doctors and nurses, even if they are embarrassed to bring it up, and to say they have fallen or that they’re afraid of falling when they walk.
If you care about heart disease, please read studies about how to prevent heart attack in people with diabetes, and what to eat if you have a heart rhythm problem.
For more information about heart health, please see recent studies about how to reverse heart failure with diet, and case showing that vitamin C may help treat heart rhythm problem.
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