And there are the physical characteristics of the patients that can be linked with the probability of falling as well. In one study from the University of Pittsburgh, the protective effect of exercise was documented by researchers who analyzed data from people taking part in the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study from 1970 to 1989 and in a follow-up survey conducted in 1990. The survey asked whether they had fallen within the previous year and, if so, what they were doing when they fell.
"We found that the likelihood of reporting a fall within the past year does not vary with age," says Kristen Mertz, MD, assistance professor of epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh. In the study, she and her fellow researchers found that 20% of the 10,615 participants, ages 20 to 87, reported falling in the previous year, and of those, 15% fell while walking. Women were 2.8 times more likely than men to fall while walking. Men with low fitness levels were 2.2 times more likely to fall than men with high fitness levels, Mertz notes.
Overall, addressing falls is just a continuous operation, says Gardner of Bartlett Regional. "You don't ever stop meeting about it. You don't ever brag that you had no falls this quarter because if you do, someone will fall. It is an ongoing process."