Jimmy Carter recovers from another fall

A local doctor gives some tips for elderly to avoid falls

Fred Bodimer
October 08, 2019 - 4:45 pm
Jimmy Carter

Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

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(KMOX) — Former President Jimmy Carter is on the mend. He fell Sunday at his home in Georgia.

"I fell down and hit my head on a sharp edge and had to go to the hospital," Carter told a crowd in Nashville Monday that had gathered to take part in a Habitat for Humanity home building project. "They put 14 stitches in my forehead and my eye is black as you may have noticed."

Related: Former President Jimmy Carter turns 95

At 95 years old, Carter is the oldest living president in U.S. history.​ He broke a hip after suffering another fall in his home this past May while getting ready to go turkey hunting. Doctors said he underwent successful surgery to repair his hip at the time.

The National Council on Aging says one in four older adults will fall every year and 20 percent of those who fall will suffer a broken bone or a traumatic brain injury.

"It's a huge deal," said SLU Care general internist Dr. Fred Buckhold with SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital. "As we age, we lose our muscle mass and so falls are really kind of a symptom or a sign of that critical loss of muscle mass. We talk a lot about what's called frailty — which puts you at risk for worsening health outcomes."

"Once a fall occurs, particularly if you break a large bone — like a hip — the surgery for that is pretty intense as is the recovery process and the resulting health risks," Dr. Buckhold told KMOX. "That can sometimes lead to a bad outcome in the long-term."

Dr. Buckhold said one key to preventing falls is to work on balance and strength training.

"An important thing throughout your life is resistance training," said Dr. Buckhold. "This is exercise done against weight, where your muscles are pushing against something or pulling against something. Walking, running, and aerobic activity are wonderful and are an important part of our physical fitness but some degree of resistance training — either using light weights or rubber bands or some other activity where you do these motions — helps keep up your muscle strength. It helps with your balance, and it certainly helps protect against falls."

"It is also helpful to have a little bit of extra weight on you as you get older," said Dr. Buckhold. "At some point, as we age, the mantra that you have to lose weight turns into well, maybe, it's OK to carry those few extra pounds. Ironically enough, it acts as a little bit of a buffer were you to fall."

The National Council on Aging says strength training should start around age 65 before falls become much of a concern.

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