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During Older Americans Month, experts share ways to stay healthy and fit

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Alex Gonzalez

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(Utah News Connection) Unintentional injuries are among the top ten leading causes of death for older adults, and during Older Americans Month, experts want to raise awareness about the importance of prevention as adults age.

Holly Billie, a tribal injury advocate with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Injury Center, said Indigenous communities around the country, including Utah's eight Tribal Nations, face unique challenges relating to falls and motor vehicle crashes.

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"They have higher motor vehicle crash death rates compared to older adults of other races and ethnicities. Disparities are usually a problem in tribal communities," Billie said.

Billie added while disparities relating to falls and motor vehicle crashes are higher in Indigenous communities, it's important to remember that most of these injuries are preventable. In an effort to decrease the susceptibility to injury or even death, Billie contends the answer could lie within social connectedness. She noted those who have close, supportive relationships have been shown to live longer, and encourages Tribal Nations to think about creative ways to further cultivate a sense of community.

Gwen Bergen, team lead with the CDC's Injury Center, said unintentional injuries can impair older adults from doing the things they want and need to do to stay healthy, happy and connected. For those who are concerned about their ability to drive, or their chances of falling, she recommends having open and honest conversations with medical providers as well as caretakers.

"Another important thing to do is to consider, with your doctor, what kinds of medicines you're taking and what the side effects of those may be. Certain medications can have side effects that can increase your risk of falling or increase your risk of being in a motor vehicle crash," Bergen said.

To prevent falls, she encouraged practicing strength and balance exercises, as well as taking part in physical activity that increases muscle strength such as walking, group exercise or low-impact sports.