Preventing Falls And Fractures

With the Snowpocalypse on its way this weekend I’ve been thinking about the rash of injuries that result from snow and ice every winter. Wrist fractures, back injuries, and the dreaded hip fracture happen when older adults slip and fall on snow and ice. What are some ways we have of preventing falls?

It’s obvious that preventing falls is much better than treating injuries when they happen. About 20% of hip fracture patients won’t leave the nursing home afterwards. Prevention strategies can be broadly divided into two categories: environmental measures and personal factors.

Environmental Measures

What can we do to make the environment safer and prevent falls? Snow removal and preventing the formation of ice (where possible) are obvious steps to take. Less obvious are installing railings on stairs, improving lighting, and placing awnings to prevent accumulation of snow and ice on landings and access points.

Personal Factors

Let’s face it, we live in northern Ohio. Snow and ice happen for about half the year. We can’t avoid it altogether and we can’t remove it all. So improving each person’s ability to avoid falls and avoid injury if they DO fall is critically important.

If you’re faced with ice and more snow than you’re comfortable with, stay home if possible. If you must go out, keeping one hand on something stable like a railing is smart when navigating stairs or other risky places. Using a cane if you have one can help.

Exercise, particularly Tai Chi, has been shown to reduce the risk of falls in senior adults. Better body awareness, better muscle strength and tone, and better balance are some of the benefits offered by regular exercise and Tai Chi in particular.

For the more adventurous, martial arts like jiu jitsu teach the student how to fall safely and reduce the risk of injuries in a fall. I myself have avoided serious injury in a fall not long ago, due to my training.

If you’re a woman over 60, make sure you’ve had a bone density (DEXA) test. This is a simple Xray that measures the strength of your bones. Using your bone density and other risk factors like age, gender and medical history, your doctor can estimate your fracture risk. If your fracture risk is high, you should discuss with your doctor what you can do to reduce your risk.

One important thing to do to keep your bones strong is to take vitamin D and a bone health supplement daily. Here in northern Ohio adults need 2000-3000 units of vitamin D every day, all year around. A lot of doctors tell patients to take calcium but bones need calcium, magnesium and vitamin D to be healthy. I recommend Shaklee’s OsteoMatrix which provides SMALL coated caplets proven to be well absorbed to support bone health.

Avoiding falls and avoiding injury from falls is very important. First, you have to stay on your feet. If a fall does happen, being able to fall safely and having strong bones to prevent fractures is critical.

QUESTION: Are you afraid of falls? What do you do to avoid them and stay safe?

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