Healthy Aging: Fall Prevention, Osteoporosis & Joint Health
In this series:
According to the National Council on Aging, an older adult is seen in an emergency department for a fall-related injury every 11 seconds. Locally, falls are our most common reason for admission to the hospital. If you are concerned about falls, talk to your primary care provider. They can offer advice and guide you to local support services that can help you or your loved one age well. Your provider can help you understand if any medications are increasing your fall risk and can recognize signs and symptoms of illnesses that may affect your stability like inner ear or vision problems.
Fortunately, falls are preventable. To avoid serious injury, fall prevention should be a priority for adults as they age. Making your home a safe place is an important way to minimize fall risks and can include:
- Remove loose rugs from the floor. Many falls are caused by someone tripping on a rug.
- Clear pathways. Keep the most commonly used pathways clear of tripping hazards.
- Keep pathways well-lit. It’s easy to trip on something you can’t see. Make sure pathways stay well-lit and that switches are easy to reach, so even late-night trips to the bathroom are safe.
- Use handrails. Make sure both sides of the stairs have sturdy handrails.
- Fix loose carpet or steps. Make sure each step and any carpet is firmly attached.
- Keep things you use often on shelves that are around waist high.
- Prevent slippery floors. Use non-slip rubber mats in tubs and showers.
- Install grab bars if you need extra support to get in and out of the shower or up from the toilet.
Fear of falling is common but can lead to more falls when it stops you from practicing prevention measures. People who are afraid of falling may try to move less and less to avoid an injury, leading to weaker muscles and an increase in fall risk rather than a decrease. Exercise and consistent activity is not only part of a healthy lifestyle but helps you maintain the balance and strength that you need as you get older. It’s never too early or late to start, and there are many programs available to the public to help you stay active. Talk to your doctor about what is best for you before you begin any exercise plan.
Leigha Jordan is the Injury Prevention Coordinator with Cone Health Emergency and Trauma Services
Exercise & Nutrition for Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is a common part of aging that causes bones to become weak and brittle, although it can affect some people more than others. While it can’t be completely prevented, exercise and getting the right nutrients throughout life can help slow down the process. Because osteoporosis is a common and serious bone disease, it is important for individuals to learn how to boost bone density and slow the development of the disease later in life.
Since our bones are predominantly made up of calcium, it’s important to consume the right amount each day to ensure proper bone development. Most people already consume the amount they need daily, but it’s also easy to find over the counter calcium pills to take if needed. Vitamin D3 helps the body absorb calcium and is an equally important part of your diet. We get D3 naturally from sunlight, but if you don’t spend a lot of time outside in the sun, you may need to take a supplement.
Exercise is an extremely important aspect of maintaining bone health. Regular exercise can help strengthen the bones and make them less likely to decline as you age. Weight-bearing exercise is best or exercising against gravity like walking, aerobics or Pilates. Doctors recommend about 150 minutes of exercise a week, or about 30 minutes five times a week. The exceptional team of physicians at Cone Health is dedicated to educating the community about bone health and how to support it through exercise and nutrition.
Dr. Bill Plonk is a geriatrician with Mebane Medical Clinic and a member of Cone Health Medical Group.
How to Keep Your Joints Young
Past injury or trauma in the joints is one of the leading causes of osteoarthritis. Regular exercise plays a major role in keeping your joints and their supporting structures strong and healthy and has been proven to help prevent muscle and joint injuries. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends individuals to participate in at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercise five times a week, and at least 30 minutes of strength training exercise two times a week.
When beginning an exercise routine, many people underestimate the importance of stretching, especially after a work-out. Stretching helps improve flexibility, which decreases your risk of injuries by helping your joints move through their full range of motion. Before working out, it is important to warm your muscles by doing a low-intensity exercise, such as walking or light jogging, for five to ten minutes. Then, after each work-out, focus on stretching the major muscle groups, such as your calves, thighs, hips, lower back, neck and shoulders, and other muscles you use on a regular basis.
Many studies have shown that individuals are more likely to participate in a regular exercise routine when they are older if they began exercising at a young age. Therefore, it’s important for parents to encourage their kids to participate in physical activity. Try getting them involved in a few different organized sports to see what kind of activity they enjoy, and hopefully, it will be something they continue to participate in throughout their lives to maintain healthy joints and overall wellness.
It is important to get a proper medical evaluation before beginning or changing an exercise routine.
Dr. Shane Hudnall is a primary care sports medicine specialist practicing at Cone Health Sports Medicine Department at MedCenter High Point.