Observing Healthy Aging Month in September is an opportunity to emphasize the physical well-being of older adults. At The Hand Center, our focus is identifying proactive health practices that reduce the risk of orthopaedic injury and conditions and promote an overall active lifestyle. Three primary areas we look to include fall prevention measures, osteoporosis management and establishing a routine exercise program.
Fall Prevention Measures
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries in people age 65 and older. More than one out of four older adults fall each year, but less than half tell their doctor. Common injuries include shoulder and forearm fractures as well as spine, pelvic and hip fractures and head injuries.
Even if the injury is not life-threatening or permanently debilitating, taking a fall at home can be a frightening and life-changing experience, especially for the elderly and those living alone. The Orthopaedic Trauma Association and the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons outline several effective modifications to help reduce your risk of falling in your home that include:
- Make sure you have a lamp, telephone and flashlight near your bed and place a nightlight on the path between your bed and the bathroom.
- Arrange your living area, so you have a clear pathway between rooms and keep low-rise furniture like coffee tables and magazine racks out of the path of foot traffic.
- Secure loose area rugs with slip-resistant backing and repair damaged flooring immediately.
- Replace low-profile furniture like chairs, sofas and beds that make getting up and down difficult.
- Placing a bell on small pets so you can quickly locate them and train larger pets not to pull you when on a leash to minimize tripping hazards.
Healthy bone is continuously being remodeled, which means that small amounts are absorbed in your body as small amounts are replaced. When more bone calcium is absorbed than is replaced, the density (bone mass) is reduced. Osteoporosis develops when the bone is no longer replaced as quickly as it is removed, and over time it causes the bone to become progressively weaker, increasing the risk that it may break. While the exact medical cause of the condition is still unknown, osteoporosis causes more than 2 million fractures annually. However, several factors contribute to its development, including aging, heredity, hormones, physical inactivity, smoking, and excessive alcohol intake.
A gradual loss of bone mass generally begins around age 35 for everyone, and after growth is complete, women ultimately lose 30% to 50% of their bone density while men lose 20% to 30%. Bone loss occurs mainly in the lower forearm above the wrist, spine, upper femur or thigh. However, the rate of progression and the effects can be modified with proper early diagnosis and treatment. Proactive measures for bone health include:
- Adequate Calcium Nutrition: Men and women age 19 to 50 need at least 1,000 milligrams of calcium each day, and after 50, your body needs 1,200 to 1,500 milligrams.
- Proper Vitamin D Intake: Men and women age 19 to 70 need 600 IU of vitamin D, and after 70, that increases to 800 IUD per day.
- Regular Weightbearing Exercises: Activities such as walking, jogging or dancing, three to four hours a week. Although swimming and bicycling are not weight-bearing, they are great alternatives if you have a health condition that prevents weight-bearing exercise.
- Healthy Lifestyle Choices: Smoking and consuming excessive amounts of alcohol should be avoided because they increase bone loss.
Routine Exercise Program
A safe, routine exercise program can help reduce the progression of osteoporosis, as mentioned above, in addition to other significant orthopaedic health benefits. Building an effective exercise program should always start by consulting your physician, especially if you have a heart problem or history of heart disease. Together, you can discuss your goals and identify activities you enjoy and can do regularly. A few options to consider include:
- Aerobic Conditioning: Working up to 20 to 30 minutes per day, three to four days a week, can be accomplished by bicycling with a neighbor, taking a water exercise or line dancing class or walking on a treadmill indoors.
- Flexibility & Agility Exercise: Tai chi and yoga are exercise programs that focus on breathing and balance while improving flexibility and increasing agility. Classes are typically available in small groups or private one-on-one sessions in our local area.
- Strength Training: Working with free weights, resistance rubber bands or weight machines at home or a gym improves muscle capacity and bone density. However, it is vital to avoid strength imbalances by working with all the major muscle groups. If you have osteoporosis or loss of bone calcium, you will need to talk with a doctor before beginning a strength training program.
- Relaxation Techniques: Relaxation has been proven to help maintain overall cardiac fitness, lower blood pressure and may even improve your immune system. Many yoga classes include techniques like deep (diaphragmatic breathing) and simple meditation.
To consult one of our fellowship-trained physicians at The Hand Center about an upper extremity issue resulting from a fall, discuss treatment options for a chronic condition or proactive strategies to manage your bone health, call 850.807.4200 or schedule an appointment online.