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Prevent Falls to Avoid Osteoporosis Complications

woman lifting weights 

Posted July 28, 2020 

Osteoporosis, which means brittle bones, is common and under-treated, but an incredibly important condition to manage. In fact, one in two women and one in four men over the age of 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis. Here’s a startling statistic: Each year, there are nearly 300,000 hip fractures in the US. After a hip fracture, 25 percent of patients will end up in a nursing home and 50 percent will never regain their previous function. 95 percent of hip fracture occur after falls which is why fall prevention is so important.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one out of every four adults age 65 and older will fall. During this global pandemic, many people are appropriately staying home. But, in most cases, that likely means less regular physical activity. With less activity, our muscles and bone can weaken. Lastly, fear of falling and injury can prevent people from feeling safe performing their everyday activities. Fear can lead to inactivity, so to help you manage your health and wellbeing safely at home here is some guidance to keep you strong, active and safe.

How to Prevent Falls at Home

  • Keep walkways clear, reduce clutter and secure loose rugs.
  • Use nightlights to see well in the dark.
  • Get your vision and hearing tested regularly.
  • Install handrails in bathrooms, halls and stairways.
  • Wear supportive footwear and focus on good posture and balance.
  • Use assistive devices, such as a cane or walker if needed.
  • Review your medications regularly with your providers to review them for side effects like dizziness or other risks for falls.
  • Avoid excessive alcohol intake.

Moving

Weight-bearing activity and resistance exercises improve strength, posture and balance, which helps reduce the risk of falls. Weight-bearing exercises include walking, jogging, Tai Chi, stair climbing and dancing, among other activities. Some people will take part in online exercise classes or could just perform simple activities safely at home.

Physical therapy is also useful in helping people learn and perform different exercises. A person should discuss any concerns with their medical provider before starting any exercise program.

Accidents Happen. Don’t Panic.

If you fall, the first thing to do is to not panic! Remain calm and still. You do not want to injure yourself further by reacting too quickly. Here’s what you should do:

  • Do not move for a few minutes as getting up too quickly could cause more harm.
  • Assess if are injured. Slowly start to move your hands and feet and then your arms and legs to check for pain.
  • If there are no injuries, slowly roll onto your side.
  • Turn your head first, followed by your shoulders, arm, hips and leg.
  • Slowly push up into a crawling position and crawl to a piece of sturdy furniture.
  • Rise up slowly into a chair and sit for a few minutes to see how you feel.
  • If you are injured or cannot get up, call for help either out loud or with the use of a medical alert help button or a nearby phone.

Should I Call 9-1-1 If I Fall?

If you need help, call 911. Across the UVM Health Network, we are taking extra precautions to keep our patients and staff safe and following updated guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, American Hospital Association and other leading health care organizations. Learn about all of our safety precautions by clicking here.

Additionally, we are now rescheduling non-urgent and elective outpatient and inpatient procedures and appointments. It is important to take care of yourself and don’t delay care. We are here for you and ready to provide the safe care you need.

Jennifer Kelly, DO, is an endocrinologist and director of the Metabolic Bone Program at the UVM Medical Center.

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