Health Column: It’s critical to prevent falls as you age

08/10/2011 3:31 PM |

Are your bones at risk?

Last year, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported there were more than 2 million emergency room visits, 18,000 deaths and more than 300,000 hip fractures resulting from falls. In fact, one in three adults over the age of 65 is predicted to experience a fall, and women are 50 percent more likely to fall and suffer an injury, according to the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.

Broken bones and hip fractures are a physical consequence to a fall, but there are also psychological issues that can be just as damaging to the quality of life. The fear of falling can create a domino effect that begins with reduced mobility, leading to a loss of physical fitness and ultimately diminishing independence.

But falls are preventable. Exercise alone can prevent falls as it increases your strength and balance. Also, you and your doctor should discuss the medications you’re taking, their side effects and whether or not they could play a role in your overall sense of balance and equilibrium.

Other preventive measures are as uncomplicated as annual eye exams to ensure appropriate vision and home safety evaluations to reduce slipping and fall hazards. Be sure to screen for osteoporosis and make sure you’re taking the correct amount of calcium and vitamin D supplements. A vitamin D deficiency has been shown to increase your risk of fractures if you do fall.

Lastly, speak with your doctor about the simple test called DEXA, which stands for dual energy x-ray absorptiometry. It takes between five and 15 minutes and can easily assess your bone mineral density. This test can be performed at your local hospital.

Dr. Bellamy Brook is the medical director at Peconic Landing in Greenport and a graduate of New York College of Osteopathic Medicine in Old Westbury. He is board certified in family practice, providing care in geriatrics and urgent care medicine and has offices in both Cutchogue and Riverhead. He is affiliated with Eastern Long Island Hospital.

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