The tenth annual Fall Prevention Day is on Sept. 22, 2017, sponsored by the National Council on Aging. Falls can happen anytime and anywhere to people of any age, however, they are of particular concern as we get older. Our Dr. Laura Glenn shares some informative stats and helpful strategies to prevent falls:
- 1 out of 4 adults over 65 will fall each year. Injuries due to falls can lead to loss of mobility and independence that can be permanent, long after the injury has healed. More than 27,000 deaths per year are directly attributable to having fallen.
- Maintaining good balance is crucial to preventing falls. Older adults should continue to exercise regularly, and best practices are to engage in exercise that work on balance skills (tai chi, yoga, etc.)
- It is important to prevent osteoporosis, as people with osteoporosis are at greater risk of breaking a bone during a fall. Osteoporosis can be prevented by building good bone density during younger years, and avoiding habits that can weaken bones (like smoking and lack of exercise).
- Engaging young adults (particularly women) and educating about building good bone density in their teens through 30s should be an area of focus for clinicians going forward, so these young adults have a better chance of preventing osteoporosis when they are older. Educating on how a broken bone from falling as a 65+ adult can be the beginning of the end, in terms of reduced mobility and independence, could be highly beneficial given that peak bone mass occurs by age 3.
- Steps younger adults still building bone mass can take include eating a diet rich in calcium, ensuring adequate amounts of Vitamin D, engaging in daily physical activity that emphasizes weight bearing exercises (such as light jogging or brisk walking) as well as regular muscle strengthening exercises, and avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol.
- Older adults can follow those same guidelines in attempt to slow the decline of bone mass, which occurs naturally during the aging process.
- Older adults who have osteopenia or osteoporosis need to be particularly mindful of ensuring appropriate (but not excess) calcium consumption from food and adequate Vitamin D levels. Remember that milk is not the only source of calcium – green leafy vegetables are a great source! Supplemental calcium can be beneficial, and I particularly like calcium supplements that contain Microcrystalline Hydroxyapatite Concentrate (MCHC).
- Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy in postmenopausal women can also help minimize further decline in bone density, but benefits only occur during treatment years and are not maintained when hormones are stopped. Careful consideration of risks and benefits of hormone replacement therapy should be done.
- Bone density scan should be done regularly in adults 65+, and can be used to gauge how well treatment is working. Natural therapies do work – I have personally seen osteoporosis revert to osteopenia and DEXA scores improve in many of the women I have worked with.