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Don't Break a Leg

"Falls and fractures can really get you down, in more ways than one. Stand up tall with these health hints"
By: Ivan Olegario, MD, MDevComDon't Break a Leg

Falling and broken bones (fractures) are not only painful experiences, but debilitating ones as well. It can hamper daily activities and – depending on the location – can also affect mobility (walking around) and the quality of life. Even the wearing of a heavy cast during recovery can weigh you down. And for the elderly, a single fall leading to a hip fracture can lead to being bedridden for the rest of his/her life.

The impact of falls and fractures is the result of three general factors: (1) the fall itself; (2) the force of the fall; and (3) the fragility of your bones. Focusing on this triad, the impact of falls and fractures can be minimized by preventing forceful falls and increasing the strength of your bones.

Preventing Falls

There are many reasons why you could experience a fall:

  • Loss of footing or traction (e.g., walking on slippery floors), especially when climbing.
  • Weak muscle strength or reflexes, such as in the elderly.
  • Poor eyesight.
  • Dizziness, confusion, or disorientation.
  • Alcohol and medications.

Medications that may cause dizziness or light-headedness leading to falls:

  • Medications for high blood pressure
  • Heart medicines
  • Anti-allergy medications
  • Diuretics (water pills)
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Tranquilizers and sleeping pills

To avoid forceful falls, keep these health hints in mind:

  • Use a cane during bad weather.
  • Wear closed footwear with rubber soles. Avoid high-heeled shoes or floppy slippers.
  • Do not walk around in socks or stockings.
  • Always look where you are walking.
  • Slow down when approaching sidewalks and check the height of the curb gutters.
  • Keep floors free from clutter.
  • Buy skid-proof mats and carpets.
  • Keep stairwells well-lit and with fixed handrails.
  • Install grab bars in bathrooms, tubs, showers, and toilets.
  • Always keep a flashlight handy, especially near the bed.

Keeping your bones strong

Strong bones will not break with minor falls. However, as we age, our bone strength decreases, especially in women. This could lead to osteoporosis (porous bones). Osteoporotic bones are more likely to break during falls. To keep your bones strong, you should not wait until you are old. Start today. Stronger bones, while you are young, means you are less likely to develop osteoporosis.

Here are some health hints to keep your bones strong:

  • Eat a calcium-rich diet. Calcium-rich foods include dark leafy vegetables, cheese, low-fat milk, yogurt, okra, broccoli, green beans, almonds, and fish canned with their bones. If your diet is poor in calcium, take a calcium supplement every day.
  • Eat a diet rich in vitamin D. This diet should include fish oils, fatty fish (e.g., salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel, and herring), mushrooms, beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks. If your diet is poor in these foods, take a vitamin D supplement every day.
  • Do weight-bearing exercises. These include weight training (dumbbells, barbells, cables, and resistance bands), walking, jogging, hiking, stair climbing, and dancing.
  • If you are aged 65 years and above, or a woman in menopause, or you have poor health, talk with your doctor about having a bone mineral density (BMD) test. This will determine how strong your bones are, and if you need medications to help strengthen your bones and prevent fractures.
  • Taking precautions to avoid falls and strengthening your bones will help you stay up and about, head held high, all the days of your life.
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