No matter your age, it’s never too early or too late to take steps to protect yourself from broken bones. Each year about a third of all persons over age 65 will fall. Many of these falls result in a broken bone, often the hip or wrist. Broken bones at any age can be painful, difficult to heal, and cause life-long challenges affecting your activities and independence. Tell your healthcare provider right away if you fall, worry about falling, or feel unsteady. Learn more in BHOF’s Safe Movement brochure.
Many factors can lead to a fall: poor balance, weak muscles, foot pain, vision problems, certain diseases, alcohol use, certain medications, and hazards in the home. Check out the easy, online Falls Free CheckUp (also available in Spanish) from the National Council on Aging to better understand your risks and to share your results with your healthcare provider.
Fortunately, there are simple things you can do to prevent falls. Follow these tips to keep yourself safe:
Safety Tips: Fall-Proofing Your Home
Learn about practical and empowering ways to prevent falls inside your home and maintain a healthy, active lifestyle.
Review this handy checklist for great tips:
- Check For Safety: A Home Fall Prevention Checklist for Older Adults (English)
- Check For Safety: A Home Fall Prevention Checklist for Older Adults (Spanish)
As a care partner, it is critical to understand what actions to take to protect your loved ones from falls. Check out the following brochure to discover what you can do:
- Family Caregivers: Protect Your Loves Ones From Falling (English)
- Family Caregivers: Protect Your Loves Ones From Falling (Spanish)
As you age, your physical health changes and impacts your daily lifestyle. It’s important for everyone to be aware of these changes and how to best protect your bones from possible hazards by moving safely and reducing your risk of falls.
Reflexes are automatic responses to stimuli in the environment. Examples include slamming on your car brakes when a child runs into the street or moving out of the way quickly when something falls in front of you. As you get older, your reaction time slows and regaining your balance following a sudden movement may be difficult. Studies have shown that that falls in long-term care facilities occurred largely because of poor response time to protective arm movement and arm weakness. This decreased ability to control your movements can result in a fall. To improve your reflexes, keep up an active lifestyle. Activity maintains muscle tone, flexibility, and slows bone loss. Regular weight-bearing exercises and muscle-strengthening exercises (also known as resistance exercises) can build and tone muscles. Keeping up the strength in your arms and legs can go a long way to improving how well you move and can react to regain your balance.
Improving and maintaining your balance is crucial to stopping falls. Your eyes, ears, muscles, and joints all play an important role in preserving your balance and preventing broken bones. There are several ways to enhance your balance. Consider practicing a non-impact exercise, like Tai Chi, which will strengthen your legs and literally test your balance. Lack of exercise not only robs your bones of density, but it can lead to muscle weakness, which increases your risk of falling. Bone Healthy Exercises Examples will not only help your balance but will keep you strong and flexible and reduce your chances of falling. Exercise slowly, once daily, with shoes on or off. In addition, check out Keeping Your Balance to better understand how important vision and the function of the inner ear are to maintaining your balance.
Illnesses and Medication
Some people have illnesses that affect circulation, sensation, or mobility. Be sure to stay informed about your medical conditions and how they might affect your risk of falls. Certain medications, such as blood pressure pills, heart medicine, diuretics, sleeping pills, sedatives, antidepressants, muscle relaxers, and tranquilizers, can also cause confusion, dizziness, disorientation, and slowed reflexes. Talk to your healthcare provider or pharmacist about the side effects of the drugs that you take and how they may affect your coordination or balance. Be aware that the use of multiple medicines can increase your risk of falls.
Certain lifestyle behaviors can make a person more susceptible to a fall, for example:
- Alcohol slows reflexes and may cause confusion, dizziness, or disorientation.
People in a hurry need to slow down. Accidents are more likely to happen when you do things in haste.
- It’s important to stay alert and focused when in public places.
- Exercising regularly helps maintain bone density and increase muscle strength and size which helps to support bones and prevent injury. A physical therapist or exercise professional can help you develop a safe and appropriate exercise program.
- Remember to wear appropriate shoes both indoors and outside.
Preventing Spinal Fractures
Broken bones of the spine are common in people with osteoporosis and often go unnoticed until more serious problems occur. Learn how to recognize the signs and symptoms of spinal fractures. Be sure to take steps to prevent these fractures from happening in the first place. Learn more about spinal fractures here.
Who Can Help? Resources to Help You Learn More
Physical therapists and exercise professionals, with experience in osteoporosis, can help you develop a safe exercise plan to prevent osteoporosis and to stay fracture-free if you already have osteoporosis. Physical therapists can also perform balance assessment and provide help with posture, body mechanics and safe movement. Improving your strength, balance, posture, and incorporating safe movements can help prevent broken bones and falls, allowing you to stay active and independent. Ask your healthcare provider to recommend a trained specialist to work with you.
The BoneFitTM Directory is one way to find a professional trained in the most appropriate, safe, and effective exercise methods for people with low bone density and osteoporosis. Another resource to find a fitness professional who can help is through the MedFit Network directory. An Osteoporosis Clinic or Bone Health Clinic in your area might also have exercise specialists to help you.
Check out the links below and discover more about how to protect yourself from falls and broken bones.
- Falls Prevention YouTube Playlist
- National Council on Aging Falls Free Check Up (English)
- National Council on Aging Falls Free Check Up (Spanish)
- CDC STEADI – Older Adult Fall Prevention Resources
- Five Quick and Easy Home Modifications
- Compare Reviews for Medical Alert Systems
Last Reviewed 9/21/22