Bone is a growing tissue composed mainly of calcium and proteins. Constant reformation of bone takes place as calcium is absorbed by your body. Osteoporosis is a condition in which the calcium from the bone is not replaced when it is removed, forming “porous bones” which cause the bones to become brittle and weak. Therefore, if you have osteoporosis and you fall, you are at a higher risk of breaking a bone. If osteoporosis is not prevented or treated it can progress without any symptoms until a bone breaks (fracture). Fractures associated with osteoporosis may take a very long time to heal or even cause permanent disability. Some factors which can contribute to osteoporosis are:
- Excessive thyroid hormone
- Smoking and alcohol
- Low calcium in diet or reduced calcium absorption by the body
- Low levels of estrogen after menopause
Osteoporosis has no symptoms and is often referred to as a “silent disease”; therefore, you may not be aware of the decrease in bone density. Falls are very dangerous for patients with this condition as it often leads to a fracture and limits an individual’s daily activities during the healing phase of the fracture.
The underlying factors that influence whether a fracture occurs from a fall include:
- The force and direction of the fall
- The fall itself
- How fragile your bones are
Prevention of falls is very important in people with osteoporosis.
Some common causes of falls include indoor and outdoor hazards that may occur during normal day to day activities.
Certain safety tips to prevent falls include:
Outdoor safety tips
- When the ground is slippery or wet due to rain or snow, warm boots with rubber soles can be used for added traction and to prevent numbing of your feet.
- Use a walker or a cane for added stability during bad weather.
- Stop at the curbs and check their height before stepping up and down. Be careful at curbs that have been cut away to allow access for wheelchairs or bikes.
- Grasp the handrail as you step onto an escalator or moving walkway.
- Floor surfaces in public buildings are usually highly polished and might be slippery. Low heeled shoes with rubber soles can be worn for such floorings.
- Identify community services that can provide 24 hour delivery with pharmacies and grocery stores that take orders over the phone or internet in bad weather.
- Talk to your doctor about hip padding for added protection in case of a fall.
Indoor safety tips
- Place items you use most often within your reach so that you can avoid a lot of bending. You can also use a tool called a “grabber” to reach items.
- Remove all the loose wires from the floors and keep the floor clutter-free.
- Check that all carpets are skid-proof or tacked to the floor
- Make sure the furniture is in its usual place
- Use anti-skid mats on the floor in the kitchen near the sink and stove and clean up spills as soon as they occur.
- Keep the light switches within reach of your bed in the bedroom and always have a night light between the bedroom and bathroom. You can also keep an emergency light on your bedside for safety.
- Install grab bars on the walls of the bathrooms and use non-skid rubber bath mats in the shower or tub.
- Keep the staircase of the house well lit and install sturdy handrails.
- Certain lifestyle behaviours such as drinking alcohol also increase the risk of falling. Alcohol slows reflexes and causes dizziness and disorientation and alters balance that can lead to falls. Excessive alcohol intake can also cause bone loss.
- You should always be alert in public places.
- Consume a calcium-rich diet; calcium is essential to overall health and bone development.
Taking care of all these steps can help you enjoy a healthy and active life. Talk to your physical therapist about ways to reduce the risk of falling.