At least 250,000 older adults are hospitalized for hip fractures every year, and more than 95% of those injuries are caused by falling. Complications can be life-threatening, and almost all hip fractures require some form of surgical repair or replacement. The recovery is long and difficult, and may leave the injured person unable to live on their own.
The rate of hip fractures dramatically increases with age. Part of this is caused by decreased muscle mass and bone density leaving the area weaker, and problems with balance and vision can make an older person more susceptible to falls. Other factors include:
- Osteoporosis: Bone is a living tissue that is constantly breaking down and being replaced, and Osteoporosis occurs when your body can’t create new bone fast enough to replace the old bone, causing them to become brittle and weak. While it can affect anyone, Osteoporosis is most common among white and Asian women post-menopause.
- Nutrition: Not including enough vitamin D and calcium in your diet when you’re young can lower your peak bone mass, increasing the risk of fractures later on in life. Serious eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia are especially dangerous because they can deprive your body of essential nutrients necessary for building bones.
- Alcohol and Tobacco: Use of either substance can interfere with your body’s ability to build and maintain bones, and can result in bone loss later in life.
- Medical Conditions: Endocrine disorders like an overactive thyroid, and intestinal disorders that reduce your absorption of calcium and vitamin D can lead to weaker bones, increasing the risk of a fracture.
- Medication: Prednisone and other types of cortisone medications can weaken bones if used over a long period of time. Other drugs can also increase dizziness, making you more prone to falling.
The best way to avoid hip fractures is to prepare yourself with a healthy lifestyle choices in early adulthood. By building up your peak bone mass, you can reduce the risk of osteoporosis, increase your overall health, and lower your risk of falling.
- Calcium and Vitamin D: It’s recommended for men and women 50 years old and up to consume 600 international units of vitamin D, and 1,200 milligrams of calcium every day.
- Alcohol and Tobacco: Tobacco use and excessive drinking can reduce bone density, and drinking too much alcohol will also impair your balance, increasing the risk of falling.
- Medication: Pay close attention to the side effects of any medication you’re taking. Dizziness and feeling weak are possible side effects of many medications, so be sure to ask your doctor about these issues.
- Physical Activity: Walking and other weight-bearing exercises are important to maintaining peak bone density, as well as increasing overall strength. Balance exercises also reduce the risk of falls, and become increasingly important to do consistently as you age.
- Eyesight: It’s important to see clearly no matter how old you are, but getting an eye exam every other year is especially important later in life. If you have an eye disease or diabetes, it’s recommended to get them checked more frequently.
- Remove All Hazards: Get rid of or move anything in your house that could cause you to trip. Throw rugs, electrical cords, and excess furniture are all potential hazards that should be removed or moved to safe locations.
- Get Walking Aids: Whether it’s a cane or a walker, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor or occupational therapist about whether you could benefit from using one.