By: Jake A. Motha, DPT
Have you fallen in the past year? Do you feel unsteady when standing or walking? Do you worry about falling? If you answered yes, you are not alone. In fact, one out of three older adults age 65 or greater will fall within the year. It is no surprise the older we get the higher the risk of falls.There is a multitude of factors that can contribute to a fall and there are several steps you can take to mitigate that risk.
Falls Can Have a Serious Impact on Your Health
In 2013, 2.5 million people were treated in emergency rooms with fall related injuries.Consequences of such events can be detrimental to your health and include serious injuries. Approximately 30 percent of people who fall suffer moderate to severe injuries such as: lacerations, fractures, traumatic head injuries, and can even contribute to early death. With falls being the most common cause of traumatic brain injury,it shouldn’t be a shock to learn that many people develop a fear of falling, and subsequently reduce their activity levels.This can contribute to a sedentary lifestyle, lower physical fitness levels and actually increase the risk of falling.
Take Steps to Reduce Your Risk of Falling
There are several steps you can take to reduce the risk of falling. Exercising regularly will help to maintain strength and balance. Programs such as Silver Sneakers© and Tai Chi are commonly offered to promote health and fitness.You can work with a physical therapist to develop an independent home exercise program to focus on leg strength and balance. Exercise, along with calcium and vitamin D supplementation, can ensure strong healthy bones and reduce the risk of osteoporosis, as it has been proven that strong bones can greatly reduce your risk of falls.
Medications, with their many side effects, can contribute to dizziness leading to a fall. Taking multiple medications can exacerbate their adverse effects. Meet with your doctor to discuss reducing any unnecessary medications. Have your eyes checked yearly and avoid bi and multi-focal lenses which can skew ones vision when walking, especially on uneven surfaces. You can also make environmental modifications to your home to reduce tripping hazards. As we age our night vision is often impaired. Ensure that you have proper lighting installed, use nightlights to illuminate hallways. Avoid the use of scatter rugs and make sure cords and clutter are removed from walkways. Installing grab bars near toilets, showers, tubs, and railings on both sides of the stair case can improve stability during transitional movements.
Falls can be unpredictable and while nobody anticipates a fall, most can be avoided. Taking early and preventative action will help to reduce the risk of serious bodily injury. Do not wait until the damage is done. Contact your doctor or physical therapist today to learn more about how you can prevent falls for you and your loved ones.
Learn About Our Bone Health Program
New Hampshire Orthopaedic Center has recently introduced a new bone heatlh program. The program includes evaluating and treating patients over 50 years of age who have sustained a fragility fracture due to underlying osteoporosis. A fragility fracture occurs after a low impact fall from a standing height or less. Healthy bone should be able to withstand the forces of a standing height fall without a fracture occurring. When bones fracture after a fall from a standing height a bone health evaluation is recommended. Our bone health program goes beyond treating a patient’s existing fracture by ensuring the underlying cause of the fracture is identified and treated as well.
Patients will be asked to have a bone mineral density test called a DXA scan prior to their bone health evaluation. The DXA scan helps determine strength of bone and risk of future fracture. Our Bone Health Specialist, Dagan Cloutier, PA-C, will use the DXA results to determine if patients need a further work-up including laboratory tests. Laboratory tests help determine if patients have secondary osteoporosis or osteoporosis caused by an underlying medical condition. According to Dagan, his goal of the program is “to provide patients with education and potential treatments to help reduce their risk of a future fracture.”