ATLANTA (AP) – Hip fractures among women 65 and older have climbed 40 percent between 1988 and 1996, with about a third of older Americans suffering serious falls each year, the government said Thursday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention attributed the increase in part to a growing number of people 85 and older.

People are living longer because of advances against such killers as heart disease, stroke and cancer. But older people run a higher risk of falls because they are generally more sedentary, have weaker muscles and poorer balance, and take more medication that can make them dizzy.

In 1996, 340,000 people 65 or older were hospitalized with a broken hip. Of those, 80 percent were women. In 1988, the rate of hospitalization among women 65 and older was 972 per100,000. By 1996 it had climbed to 1,356 per 100,000.

More adults 65 and older die from fall-related injuries each year than from any other kind of injury. The CDC said 9,000 such deaths occurred in 1997.

The report found that one in three older adults requires hospitalization for a fall each year, with a broken hip the most common and serious injury. Half of those who break a hip do not regain their former level of mobility or independence, ending up in a nursing home or moving in with relatives, the CDC said.

“Hip fractures can really mark the beginning of the end for seniors,” said Judy Stevens, a CDC epidemiologist. “It can lead quickly to decline and death.”

America had 31 million people 65 and older in 1990. That number is expected to more than double by 2040.

Older adults are hospitalized for fall-related injuries five times more often than for other injuries, and women are nearly three times more likely than men to be hospitalized for falls, the CDC said.

The CDC suggests older people remove clutter and throw rugs from their homes, and exercise to increase muscle strength and balance.