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Staying strong and balanced can keep fractures away Special To The Star-news | Fri, Sep 03 2010 12:00 PM

Many of us know someone who has undergone surgery for a fracture that occurred from a fall. We know that these fractures, especially, in older people, can lead to months, if not years of pain and debilitation. Preventing falls, especially in the elderly, who are more at risk for having brittle bones, is an important health concern that, unfortunately, doctors don't have the luxury of time in the office to discuss at length about what things people can do to prevent falls.

One way to prevent fractures is to keep your bones strong by taking your daily requirement of vitamin D (800 international units, IU, a day) and calcium (1200mg a day). If you have osteoporosis, which is a medical name for brittle bones, it is recommended you start a medication that inhibits bone breakdown, and is only prescribed by a doctor once he/she knows you have osteoporosis.

But even with strong bones, the elderly are still at very high risk for falling because so many other conditions affect balance like arthritis, being on multiple medications, decrease vision, and many others. You doctor can help. If you have trouble getting around because of joint pain, your doctor can assist with obtaining a walker. You should ask your doctor's office to review which medications can cause confusion or sleepiness, and let him/her know if you have ever felt dizzy or light headed. Your doctor can also assist with referral to an annual visual exam. The eye specialist can detect various causes of vision damage like cataracts or glaucoma that can easily be corrected.

Keeping good balance is key to preventing falls. Light yoga or a Tai Chi class is a good start in keeping muscles toned and the body flexible. Invest in good shoes that are properly fitted and have a rubber bottom. Avoid slip-ons or high heels! Our feet become wider as we age so having feet measured every time you buy shoes is a great idea. Anytime you get up, do get in the habit of rising slowly while holding on to something sturdy like a bedside cabinet. As we age, our body becomes less able to cope with the change in position and your blood pressure may quickly drop if you stand up suddenly.

In your home, you can prevent falls by undertaking simple changes. Removing clutter and cords from walkways, storing dishes and household necessities within reach, are a great way to prevent a bad fall. Avoid standing on stools or chairs: rather, ask a friend or family member to assist you. This sounds simple but most people fall at when at home. Be careful with loose rugs and wet or waxed floor. Highly consider fixing any pavement on your outside property that is cracked or uneven. Good lighting can not be overemphasized, both inside and outside your home, including night lights, motion sensory lights, and a bright lamp by your bed.

Falling often is inevitable but many times people present to the emergency room from a fracture due to a fall that could have easily been preventable. I hope this short review assists your continued path to establish a healthy and happy lifestyle, free of falls and fractures.

Dr. Calderon is family medicine physician currently accepting new patients in a joint practice with Dr. Reuben Farris, who has been serving the community for 20-plus years

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