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Common Causes of Fractures in Seniors

Fractures are a major concern for seniors. There are 206 individual bones in the human body. As our bodies age, these bones will lose some of their density, making them weaker and more vulnerable to fracture. Research published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in fact, indicates that over 300,000 seniors are hospitalized for a hip fracture each year. Fortunately, fractures in seniors can often be prevented by understanding what causes them.

Vitamin D Deficiency

Seniors who don’t get a sufficient amount of vitamin D are more likely to suffer a fracture. Also known as the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D works together with calcium to promote strong bones. Calcium is used to create minerals that fill bones. For this metabolic process to happen, though, vitamin D is required.

Vitamin D allows a senior’s body to absorb and use calcium. With a vitamin D deficiency, a senior’s bones will become weaker while placing him or her at a greater risk for fractures.

Seniors can lower their risk of vitamin D deficiency by following these tips:

  • Spend more time outdoors during the midday hours.
  • Replace red meat with fish and other types of seafood.
  • Take a vitamin D supplement.
  • Eat more eggs.

Vision Problems

Vision problems can increase the risk of fractures in seniors. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), one in three seniors suffers from some degree of vision loss. Common vision problems in seniors include glaucoma, macular degeneration and cataracts. While each are unique, they can all impair a senior’s vision so that he or she is more likely to fall and sustain a fracture.

To lower their risk of fracture, seniors should prioritize their eye health. A professional optometrist can diagnose and treat many common vision problems. At the same time, he or she may recommend prescription eyeglasses. With better vision, seniors are less likely to sustain fractures.

Osteoporosis

Another common risk factor for fractures in seniors is osteoporosis. Not to be confused with osteoarthritis, osteoporosis is a chronic bone disease that’s characterized by the gradual loss of bone density. It’s normal for our bones to lose some of their bone density over time. Osteoporosis is simply more pronounced — often to the point where it contributes to fractures.

While there’s no cure for osteoporosis, seniors can lower their risk of developing this chronic bone disease by increasing their intake of calcium and vitamin D. As previously mentioned, these two nutrients are used to build new bone tissue. Seniors who consume plenty of calcium and vitamin D in their diet typically have stronger bones than their counterparts who are deficient in either one or both of these nutrients.

Clutter

Many seniors sustain fractures due to clutter. Some reports suggest that nearly half of all falls are attributed to environmental causes, including clutter. If a senior’s home is cluttered, he or she may fall and sustain a fracture.

Clutter can come in many different forms. Boxes, furniture, loose rugs and power cords or cables can create a tripping hazard. Seniors may not see these items cluttering the floor, thus causing them to trip and fall. Not all falls will result in a fracture. Nonetheless, falls are the leading cause of fracture among seniors, which is why it’s important for seniors to eliminate clutter in their homes.

Ice

During the winter, ice can increase a senior’s risk of fractures. When ice forms on a driveway, sidewalk or other paved surfaces, it can create a slip-and-fall hazard. Neither seniors nor anyone else will be able to create traction with an ice-covered driveway or sidewalk. For seniors with weaker and less-dense bones, though, an otherwise minor fall can lead to serious injury. Seniors may slip and fall while walking on an ice-covered driveway or sidewalk, resulting in a fracture.

Seniors should use extreme caution when venturing outdoors when the temperature is below freezing. The presence of ice is a serious hazard that can increase a senior’s risk of slipping falling. And with falls being the leading cause of fractures in seniors, seniors should avoid walking on ice-covered surfaces.

Medication

Certain types of medication can also make seniors more likely to sustain fractures. Statistics show that seniors take an average of two to four prescription medications. Depending on the type of medication, it may increase a senior’s risk of falling and sustaining a fracture.

Many medications have side effects. Some of them can cause dry mouth, whereas others can impair motor functions. Seniors who take the latter type of medication may experience symptoms such as drowsiness and fatigue that make them more susceptible to falling.

If you have a senior friend or family member who’s taking prescription medication, make sure he or she is familiar with its side effects. Seniors should also talk to their doctor if they experience any side effects.

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