Like many older women, my mother worries about falling. She worries about falls because they lead to broken bones. Broken bones (especially hips) lead to immobility and relocation to a nursing home—a one-way trip for many elderly Americans.
In fact, one in five hip fracture patients dies within a year of the injury, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
And fear of falling causes many older folks to avoid being active altogether, further aggravating the problem.
It’s no secret that bones weaken as we age. In fact, bone strength peaks between ages 18 – 25. And for most women, bone losses further increase after menopause, when estrogen levels drop sharply. Along with increasing age, other risk factors for bone weakness include a low body weight, family history of osteoporosis (low bone density), and being white or Asian.
But there are steps you can take to lessen your chances of falling.
- Maximize your calcium intake by eating 2 – 3 servings of low-fat or non-fat dairy products per day.
- Check with your doctor if you know you’re not getting enough calcium through your diet—a calcium supplement is the next best thing.
- Eat 4 – 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day, especially dark leafy veggies like kale and mustard greens.
- Get adequate vitamin D through sun exposure and food sources, or supplementation (check with your healthcare provider).
- Engage in weight-bearing exercises, such as climbing stairs, dancing, or jogging/fast walking.
- Keep your muscles strong by lifting weights.
- Engage in lower-body strength and balance exercises.
2) Maintain a healthy lifestyle to prevent falls, compliments of the National Institute on Aging:
- Have your eyes and hearing tested often.
- Find out if any of your medications might make you dizzy.
- Get enough sleep.
- Limit the amount of alcohol you drink.
- Stand up slowly after eating, lying down, or sitting.
- Wear rubber-soled, low-heeled shoes that fully support your feet. Shuffling around in slippers could lead to disaster.
- Check your home for possible problems such as throw rugs or loose hand railings.
If at all possible, don’t let your fear of falling immobilize you. Check with your doctor about your abilities to start an exercise program, and get moving! Here are two resources you may find helpful:
National Institute on Aging Go4Life, http://go4life.nia.nih.gov/
National Osteoporosis Foundation, http://nof.org