Our series on osteoporosis/low bone density continues…
We will begin to look at lifestyles changes we can make to reduce our risk of osteoporosis and prevent fractures, which is the biggest risk in osteoporosis. The majority of broken bones come from falls. Only in severe cases of osteoporosis can you break a bone without falling, such as a sneeze, or hug. A broken hip or other bone can have disastrous consequences.
The simplest way to reduce your risk of bone fracture is just don’t fall. Sounds easy. There’s appears to be a little more to it. There are many reasons people fall, not just because they weren’t paying attention.
Preventing falls is the most important factor in avoiding broken bones. So let’s go over the reasons you, your parent, your grandparent or other loved one might fall.
Good balance reduces falls significantly.
Balance depends partially on your vision and your inner ear.
Impaired vision compromises your balance and your coordination. Vision helps your brain know where you are in relation to the space around you.
Conditions that impair your vision are cataracts, depth perception, macular degeneration, etc.
The inner ear fluid affects your balance.
In her book Strong Women, Strong Bones, Miriam Nelson has a balance test you can do at home. It starts with the easiest moves and gets more difficult. Have a chair nearby to grab if you lose your balance.
– Tandem- Stand with one foot behind the other, your toes touching your heels. Hold for 10 seconds. You might want to try it switching feet as well.
– 1 leg stand for 10 seconds. Try other leg too.
– Tandem again. This time with your eyes closed.
-1 leg stand again. This time with eyes closed.
– Tandem again. This time with your eyes closed and turning your head from left to right.
-You can try that as well with the 1 leg stand.
Your level of fitness also affects your likelihood of falling.
Lower body strength
The muscle in your ankles, legs and hips need to be strong. Can you stand up without using your hands? Strength training can improve this.
If you’re not flexible, it will be harder to catch your balance when you lose it. Stretching is important to fitness. Don’t skip it.
Ankle Flexiblity Test-
– How high can you lift your heels off the ground? It should be at least 2 inches.
-Standing with your back against the wall and your feet 4 inches away from the wall, lift the balls of your feet and stand on your heels. You should be able to lifts the balls of your feet at least 1 1/2 inches.
Quick reflexes can help you catch yourself and prevent falls.
Test your reflexes.
- Stop a stop watch at 5 seconds.
- Catch a dropped dollar bill. Have someone hold out a dollar bill and drop it. See if you can catch it. First count 1,2,3 before dropping. Then don’t count before dropping.
Posture- Poor posture changes your center of gravity.
Arthritis- limits your mobility and reduces your strength.
Neurological disorders such a Parkinson’s can impair your balance.
Low blood pressure- causes dizziness.
Medications- sleep meds, narcotic painkillers, antidepressants, diuretics, blood pressure meds can cause unsteadiness.
Risky sports- prone to falling and crashing.
Alcohol- affects balance.
Footwear- wear supportive, sturdy shoes. Shoes that cause falls are platform shoes, high heels, clogs, loose boots, old footwear with worn soles.
Around the house- slippery floors, loose rugs, clutter on the floor, cords on the floor, dim lighting, wobbly chairs and tables.
Not paying attention
You might also lose balance due to left/right side dominance.
What To Do
Most falls occur around the house. Fix anything that might be a hazard.
Winter is also a high risk time. Take precautions.
Take care of any health issues that might increase your risk of falling/losing balance.
Strength train 3x week. Resistance bands are a safe option. Isometrics also build strength and don’t require movement.
Do balance exercises 3x a week. Yoga and Tai Chi are also good choices.
Have night lights to avoid tripping.
Have grab bars in strategic places.
Take your time. Don’t rush.
Be aware of your surroundings.
Do you have any additional tips to add?
Other posts in this series:
Low Bone Density: Who’s at Risk?
Bone Density Part 2: Testing and Diagnosis
Part 3: Osteoporosis Medications
Nelson PhD., Miriam and Wernick Ph.D.,Sarah. Strong Women, Strong Bones.
Schneider, Diane. The Complete Book of Bone Health.