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Preventing Falls Prevents Fractures
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NATIONAL OSTEOPOROSIS FOUNDATION
Jeri Nieves, PhD posted:
Falls are a concern in the senior population. 30% and 40% of men and women aged 65 and older and living at home fall each year. About one-third of these falls result in a serious injury. In the elderly approximately 1 in 10 falls result in a serious injury such as a head injury, soft tissue injury or fracture. Furthermore about 90-95% of hip fractures are a result of a fall. However, falls are preventable.

There are several risk factors that can increase a person's chance of falling that we can try to change. These include lower body weakness and problems with gait and balance. Exercise programs, however, can help reduce the risk of falls by improving muscle strength and balance.
Other fall risk factors include poor vision and/or hearing and the use of multiple medications. It is crucial for seniors to have access to and comply with regular vision and hearing exams. Seniors need to know their medications, be informed of medication interactions and know the importance of discussing medication administration with healthcare providers to reduce risks of potential side effects of dizziness or balance impairment.

People need to be aware of places at home that may lead to a fall and take precautions for outdoor safety. For example, people should check their homes for fall hazards such as loose area rugs and poorly lit areas. While outdoors, people should avoid walking on slippery surfaces and use caution while walking on cracks and uneven surfaces. It is also important to use assistive devices properly and safely when needed.

People who have fallen frequently in the past are also at risk for future falls. Fear of falling is also a major risk factor for future falls because it often leads to loss of confidence that can result in functional decline and ultimately lower bone and muscle mass.

Another major risk factor for falls is vitamin D deficiency. In fact vitamin D intakes of 800-1000 international units per day have been associated with reduced rates of falls as compared to people with lower vitamin D intakes.

Finally, many of the "Five Steps to Bone Health" will also help prevent falls. These steps include:

1. Getting the calcium and vitamin D you need every day.
2. Doing regular weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercises.
3. Not smoking and not drinking too much alcohol.
4. Talking to your healthcare provider about your chance of getting osteoporosis, and ask when you should have a bone mineral density test.
5. Taking an osteoporosis medication when it's right for you.
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