6 Ways to Avoid Risky Hip Fractures in Older Adults

Every year, one-third of people aged 65 and over in the UK fall, which equates to six people over 65 falling every minute. What’s more, a high proportion of these falls result in more serious injuries, with hip fractures being the most common.

Moreover, 50% of people who suffer a hip fracture never fully regain their independence. Even more concerning – one in every four adults who fracture their hip die within a year. With those figures in mind, it’s easy to see how serious hip fractures can be in the elderly population.

“Older adults can have life-threatening complications such as blood clots, infections, and heart arrhythmias during or after surgery to treat a hip fracture,” says Deborah Sellmeyer, M.D., medical director of the Johns Hopkins Metabolic Bone Center. 

Fortunately, experts are constantly learning more about preventive measures you can take. But first, what exactly are hip fractures?

What are hip fractures?

Imagine your thigh bone (femur) running from the top of your knee all the way up into your pelvis. The femoral head fits snugly into the joint socket of the pelvis to keep your femur in place. The femoral neck connects the femoral head to the femur.

When doctors talk about hip fractures, they’re usually referring to a break in the femoral neck. It’s not just any bone fracture because it disables your hip joint and makes using your leg extremely difficult. It’d be like trying to rotate and move your arm when it’s separated from your shoulder.

What causes hip fractures?

It can happen anytime – even standing on one leg and twisting can cause a hip fracture in people with very weak bones. This can occur in people of all ages as a result of a severe impact  and accidents.

But for older adults, falling is by far the most common cause of hip fractures. The sheer force of your body falling to the ground can easily cause a fracture, and your hip is frequently the victim of the fall. Something as simple as not picking your feet up high enough or tripping over a dangling cable can result in a hip fracture.

What health conditions can lead to hip fractures?

  • Osteoporosis. This condition weakens bones and makes them more likely to break.
  • Thyroid problems. An overactive thyroid can lead to fragile bones.
  • Intestinal disorders. Conditions that reduce absorption of vitamin D and calcium also can cause weakened bones.
  • Problems with balance. Parkinson’s disease, stroke and peripheral neuropathy can increase the risk of falling. Having low blood sugar or low blood pressure also can contribute to the risk of falls.
  • Medications. Long-term use of cortisone medications, such as prednisone, can weaken bones. Certain drugs or medication combinations can cause dizziness, which increases the risk of falling. Sleep medications, antipsychotics, and sedatives are the most commonly associated drugs with falls.

How can I avoid hip fractures?

1. Have a Calcium, Vitamin D, Potassium and Protein rich diet.

Consume sufficient calcium and vitamin D. Men and women over the age of 50 should consume 1,200 milligrammes of calcium and 600 international units of vitamin D per day.

However, don’t stop there! Eat plenty of potassium-rich fruits and vegetables on a daily basis;  this mineral has a positive effect on calcium metabolism. Don’t skimp on protein, which appears to help by maintaining muscle mass (important for strength) and aiding in bone formation and nutrition.

2. Stretch and exercise regularly.

Strengthen your bones and improve your balance by exercising. Walking and other weight-bearing exercises help maintain peak bone density. Exercise also improves overall strength, which reduces the likelihood of falling. 

Balance training is also important for reducing the risk of falls because balance deteriorates with age.

3. Quit smoking and drinking alcohol.

Avoid smoking and binge drinking. Tobacco and alcohol use can lead to a loss of bone density. Drinking too much alcohol can also impair balance and increase the risk of falling.

4. Examine your vision.

Get your eyes checked every other year, or more frequently if you have diabetes or an eye disease.

Update your eyeglasses as needed. If you have bifocal or progressive lenses, you should consider getting a pair of glasses with only your distance prescription for outdoor activities like walking. These types of lenses can sometimes make things appear closer or farther away than they are.

5. Seek for support.

Use a cane, walker, or walking stick. If you have trouble walking steadily, talk to your doctor or an occupational therapist about using these aids.

6. Make your home safer.

Throw rugs should be removed, electrical cords should be kept against the wall, and excess furniture and anything else that could trip people should be get rid off. Make certain that all rooms and passageways are well-lit so you can see your way clearer.

The Tip to a Strong and Healthy Hip

Hip fractures are more common in older people for a variety of reasons. The statistics correlate with people who are more vulnerable to falls, which makes sense given that falls are frequently the primary cause of hip fractures.

A decline in physical fitness can be a major factor in making someone more vulnerable to falling. As people get older, they tend to live a less active lifestyle, which results in decreased muscle strength, flexibility, balance, and bone mass. 

Hip fractures can be life-changing injuries. While we cannot deny that falls and hip fractures frequently occur together, we can say that there are ways to avoid both. Simple things like exercising and making sure your environment is free of trip hazards can make a big difference.