7 Ways to Prevent a Hip Fracture
Many people are aware of just how dangerous hip fractures can be. Women are especially susceptible, and in older women, they can lead to disability and even death.
There’s a new approach to preventing these fractures that makes good sense and is born out by research. For years, the emphasis has been on strengthening bones to avoid fractures. But research has shown that it’s falls that pose the greatest single risk factor for hip fracture. People who fracture their hips often do not have terrible osteporosis. They may have osteopenia, a lesser degree of bone thinning and often, they have normal bone density.
What is more important to preventing falls and the life threatening fractures that can occur is to focus on strengthening muscles and retaining or regaining balance.
The time to start being proactive is now, no matter what your age. Don’t put off preventive measures that could save you from a painful fracture, disability or worse. And as always, preventive measures impact your health on many levels. Print this list and pin it to your fridge, reminding you to complete the checklist.
1. Make sure you are getting enough vitamin D.
Vitamin D (the D3 form of vitamin D in particular) is not just for helping to maintain good bones, it also helps strengthen muscles. This was discovered in a study that showed fast improvement in the number of fractures in a group given just 700 – 800 IU of vitamin D — faster than would be expected for bone density improvement. This led to the discovery that people were falling less, because they were stronger from taking the vitamin. According to Susan Browne, PhD, we now know that vitamin D quickly enhances muscle mass, strength, coordination and reduces body sway — which is one reason for falls in elderly people.
2. Exercise regularly.
Vitamin D alone won’t strengthen your muscles and improve balance, though. It’s necessary to move those muscles. Muscle and bone strength improve together. Walking, biking, swimming all contribute to better muscle tone, though for bone density, weight bearing exercise like walking or jogging is considered best.
3. Improve balance.
Elderly women don’t get wobbly because of their age. They lose their balance because they become sedentary. But they can also regain the muscle power and coordination that prevents falls by walking, strength training and by activities like yoga, tai chi and qigong. Dr. William Evans, of the Knool Laboratory for Human Performance Research at Penn State University, reported that their research has shown that a sedentary 95-year-old can become as physically fit as a healthy 50-year-old, and a 65-year-old as physically fit as a healthy 30-year-old!
4. Get regular eye exams.
Poor vision can creep up on you and wearing inappropriate lenses or ignoring signs of glaucoma or cataracts can impact your balance and lead to falls. It’s important to see your eye doctor at least once a year or more often if you’re having problems.
5. Maintain steady blood sugar.
Low blood sugar can affect your balance and thought processes, and can make you feel dizzy and lose muscle control. Eating regular meals and snacks containing protein and minimizing your intake of caffeine and sugary foods can help balance your blood sugar.
6. Check medications and curb alcohol use.
It goes without saying that alcohol can impair your judgment and your coordination. But the medications you take can also affect balance. Valium and Librium have been associated with a 70% – 80% increased risk of hip fracture. Other medications to be careful of include some heart medications, antidepressants, sleeping pills and drugs that lower blood pressure. If your medications are putting you at risk, talk to your doctor about what you can do about it. You may be able to switch medications or lower your dosage. Or find a holistic doctor or naturopath who may be able to suggest a more natural approach to treating health conditions, without the side effect of balance problems.
7. Minimize risks in your environment.
Often, our home environments put us at risk, and it may be hard for us to notice these things on our own, since we are so used to them. It might be a good idea to have a friend or relative walk through your home and make some suggestions about ways to make it safer.
Some of the top contributors to falls are: poor lighting, lack of night lights, area rugs that are not properly anchored or easy to trip on, clutter, electrical cords in places where you can trip over them and going barefoot or wearing slippers.
Install bars and railings where you need them, keep a flashlight by your bed to use if you have to get up at night. Add skid resistant strips or carpeting to stairs.
The Anti-Aging Bottom Line: Fracturing a hip can lead to serious disability and could even end up killing you. Doing what it takes to prevent a serious fall — this means focusing on building muscle strength and balance and minimizing risks in your daily life — may be your best means of prevention. In addition, many of the things you do to build stronger muscles (like exercise) strengthen bones at the same time!