Every June since 1994, we’ve celebrated Men’s Health Month. The sponsor of this event, the Men’s Health Network, says that this recognition is a time to “heighten the awareness of preventable health problems and encourage early detection and treatment of disease among men and boys.” Families are encouraged to make wellness a part of their Father’s Day celebration.
One topic to discuss with Dad is fall prevention. Falls are a pretty serious issue for older adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each year, one in three American seniors takes a fall. One-fifth of these falls will result in hip fracture, a head injury or other serious injury that can lead to hospitalization, a loss of independence and even death.
Studies show women are more aware of the risk of falling, and they’re more likely to take steps to lower their risk. Now it’s Dad’s turn! Encourage Dad to…
Get more exercise—Many more women than men sign up for exercise classes, but a February 2016 study from Yale University found that men actually benefit more from working out. The team, led by geriatrics professor Dr. Thomas M. McGill, found that men who exercise can lower the risk of a serious fall injury by 38 percent. The male study subjects who exercised were 53 percent less likely to sustain a fall-related fracture, and were 59 percent less likely to be hospitalized in the aftermath of a fall. Encourage Dad to talk to his doctor about an exercise program that includes activities that build muscle strength, joint flexibility and coordination.
Give his home a safety inspection—Many falls are caused when a senior trips over a throw rug, electrical cord or a patch of ice. Remove hazards, and make home modifications that can reduce the risk of falls, such as improved lighting and grab bars in the shower. And while you’re fall-proofing your home, don’t forget Dad’s “man cave” or workshop. Are cords from power tools lying across walkways? Is that greasy old floor mat frayed at the edges? Does Dad tend to pile things on the basement stairs?
Eat right, and don’t drink too much—A sensible diet—what, when, and how much we eat—helps improve a person’s energy, stamina and alertness, all factors for reducing the risk of falls. And it’s important to know that many falls are caused when a person has had “one too many.” Alcohol can negatively affect balance and coordination and slow the reflexes. Encourage Dad to talk to the doctor if he’s drinking more than is recommended.
Get screened for osteoporosis—Many people believe that osteoporosis, a potentially debilitating bone-thinning condition, is a women’s disease. But older men are also susceptible. A study from Northwell Health (formerly North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System) found that only one-fourth of men think it’s important to be screened for osteoporosis—yet around one in ten men will suffer an osteoporosis-related fracture during their life. Diagnosis can help them get treatment that can protect their bones and lower the risk of fall injury.
Talk to the doctor about other fall risks—If Dad has experienced dizziness or balance problems, report those right away. He should have his vision and hearing regularly tested. And each year, he should have his medications reviewed; prescription and nonprescription drugs can lower the risk of falling by treating Dad’s health conditions, but some medications cause drowsiness and other side effects that can raise the risk.
Learn more about Men’s Health Month at www.menshealthmonth.org.