Hip fractures are very serious injuries, particularly adults aged 65 and older. The CDC reports that there are at least 258,000 hospital admissions for hip fractures each year among this age group. Women are especially at risk, sustaining 75% of all reported hip fractures. Even more alarming, the same report states that 1 in 5 hip fracture patients die within a year of the injury, often due to complications from the injury.
A hip fracture can greatly affect a person’s life, limiting mobility and independence and often requiring surgery, hospitalization, and rehabilitation. For some, the injury can affect the patient long into the future, requiring assistance from a family member or home health professional, or even admittance to a nursing home.
While you cannot control every risk factor, there are some things that you can do to reduce your risk.
1. Be aware of your risk factors.
In addition to age and gender, there are other factors that can put you at a greater risk of a hip fracture. If you have a family history of osteoporosis or a small, thin build, you have a greater risk of a hip fracture. Lifestyle factors like smoking, excessive use of alcohol, or lack of exercise can also increase your risk. These factors can weaken your bones, increasing the likelihood that you will fracture your hip if you fall.
Other factors can increase your likelihood of falling. Certain medications can affect your balance. Other medications may cause drowsiness or dizziness. Frailty, arthritis, poor vision, senility, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease can also increase your risk of falling. If you or a family member has any of these risk factors, consult with a doctor to identify ways to reduce those risks.
2. Make your home safer.
More than 95% of hip fractures result from a fall. You may not be able to control obstacles and safety hazards while you are out in public, but you can eliminate risk factors at home. Make sure you have a clear pathway to get around the house, and that you have enough lighting to be able to see well. Remove tripping hazards like electrical cords and clutter from the walkway, and secure area rugs with rug tape. If you have stairs, make sure you have handrails on each side. If you have bare-wood steps, you can put non-slip treads on each step. You should also use non-slip mats in the bathroom and shower, and you may want to consider installing grab bars in the shower.
3. Exercise regularly.
Exercise provides several benefits, especially as we get older. It helps us maintain bone health and muscle strength, and it helps improve balance and coordination. Swimming, jogging, hiking, dancing, weight training, and tai chi are all great choices. Just be sure to check with your doctor before beginning a new exercise program to make sure it’s safe for you.
4. Work to maintain and improve bone strength.
Weakened bones and osteoporosis are major contributing factors for hip fractures. Make sure you are getting enough calcium and vitamin D; take supplements if you need to. Also, try to eat a healthy diet so that your body can absorb calcium effectively. Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption, which also affect your body’s ability to absorb calcium. Weightbearing and strength exercises can help to strengthen your bones.
Not all injuries are preventable, but by working on the factors you can control, you can greatly reduce your risk of a hip fracture and continue living independently.