Preventing Falls and Associated Hip Fractures
Because of the severe consequences hip fractures pose to older adults, preventing falls can help older women and men maintain a higher quality of life. The CDC recommends fall prevention programs to help educate older adults on methods to reduce falls. These methods include increased physical activity, environmental modifications, medical assessments, and hip protectors.
- Increased physical activity can help improve balance, strength, and coordination, thereby reducing the risk of falls and injuries from falls. Studies have shown that increased physical activity helps reduce the risk of osteoporosis and can decrease the risk of hip fractures by 40% to 60%.
- Environmental modifications can help eliminate hazards in private homes or nursing homes that may pose risks. For example, eliminating tripping hazards such as throw rugs or clutter, adding stair railings, improving lighting, adding nonslip floor surfaces, and installing grab bars in bathrooms may reduce the risk of falls in private homes. In nursing homes, the addition of wheel locks for beds, modifying floor plans, installing raised toilets, etc. may decrease the number of falls. The CDCP recommends that communities implement fall prevention programs, which would include the distribution of educational materials and checklists to reduce the risk of falls among older adults.
- Medical assessments may help in minimizing certain side effects of drugs, such as dizziness or grogginess, which can contribute to an increased risk of falls.
- Hip protectors are pads designed to be worn on the hips to help shunt energy away from the point of impact. In a 1993 Copenhagen study, researchers found that hip protectors reduced the risk for hip fracture by approximately 50%.
Because older adults (aged 65 and older) are the fastest-growing age group in the United States, additional research and awareness is needed to help prevent an increase in hip fractures from falls. In 2000, 12.4% of the U.S. population was aged 65 or older. By 2050, 23% of the U.S. population (over double the number from 1990) will be 65 years of age or older. This rate is expected to increase even faster among people 85 years of age or older. Therefore, the CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control has funded the National Resource Center on Aging and Injury at San Diego State University to further research and increase the awareness of preventing unintentional injuries.
Osteoporosis, a degenerative bone disease that affects primarily post-menopausal women, can significantly increase the risk of bone fractures. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, by the time a woman reaches 60 years of age, she has a one in four chance of breaking a bone from osteoporosis. Maintaining a balanced diet rich in calcium and vitamin D, performing regular weight-bearing exercises (such as walking or aerobics), limiting alcohol intake, not smoking, and considering hormone replacement therapy or other drug therapies may help prevent the risk of osteoporotic fractures.
- The CDC National Center for Injury Prevention and Control report by Judy A. Stevens, PhD and Sarah Olson, MS, "Reducing Falls and Resulting Hip Fractures Among Older Women".
- The National Resource Center for Injury Prevention and Control provides information and resources for older adults and their families.
- Learn more about osteoporosis.