Risk of falling increases as we get older. Prepare yourself and your loved ones.

By Cindy Aldrige, F.N.P., Provider for Lee’s Summit Physicians Group.

Falling risks increase as we get olderWinter is upon us, and the ER nurse in me thinks of all the falls and how busy the ortho offices are during this season of the year.

Falls are the leading cause of trauma and poor health outcomes in older age. Falls have potential to cause large bone breaks like hip/thigh and complicated fractures in the spine. There are two areas that need to be addressed when discussing this topic.

1. How to prevent falls
2. How to prevent bone thinning (osteopenia or osteoporosis) that increase risks of fractures/breaks.

Lets talk about how to prevent falls first.

Falls can be from tripping over objects or from being unsteady on your feet. Tripping over throw rugs, small animals, and shoes that had been taken off and not placed out of the way are among the most common causes of falls/tripping.

Medicare recommends that all areas of the house need to be well lit, no throw rugs to get shoes or toes caught on and grab bars in the bathroom to help prevent falls. Being unsteady on your feet can be prevented by changing positions slowly and waiting after changing position before taking a first step.

Hydrating well is important also to prevent falls from dehydration and to keep organs functioning well. This means limiting or avoiding caffeine to stay well hydrated. Caffeine actually pulls water from your body and dehydrates you.

Having strong muscles because of daily physical activity or exercise is important to prevent falls and to help maintain balance. Yoga is an excellent way to strengthen muscles and to help with balance and stretching. See my previous blog on daily activity for further info on this topic.

If you have a fall, talk with your healthcare provider. Some medications can increase fall risk. Sometimes medication choices can be changed and minimize the chance of falls in future.

Prevent bone thinning

Falling risks increase as we get olderOsteoporosis, the thinning of bones, and osteopenia (pre-osteoporosis) can be prevented by weight bearing exercises regularly. Running, aerobics, walking briskly, jumping jacks, and fast pace dancing are good examples of helpful exercise. Also, getting enough calcium and vitamin D3 is important. UpToDate resources says that 1,200 mg of calcium and 800 IU of vitamin D3 is needed daily to help prevent osteoporosis. This can be through food intake, supplements, or a combination of both. Smoking cessation and avoidance of heavy alcohol use is important to prevent bone loss as well.

To determine if you have osteoporosis or osteopenia, you will need a bone density scan ordered by your provider. The prevention of bone loss can be implemented on your own without a provider’s order however… Talk with your provider if you have risk factors such as a broken bone as an adult, long term steroid use, long term smoker, low body weight less than 127 lbs, or excessive alcohol consumption. Being Caucasian/white puts you at higher risk for this disease than being black/African American, Hispanic or Asian.

Additional Resources:

UpToDate: screening for osteoporosis

UpToDate: management of osteoporosis in post-menopausal women

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