Did you know that one in four people over the age of 65 will suffer a hip fracture? This is a frightening statistic because of the severity of hip fractures. Beyond the immense pain following the injury, there is also a profound loss of physical function associated with it. Because the hips are weight-bearing joints, breaking a hip is not an injury that should be taken lightly. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help reduce your risk. Understanding how to prevent injury and what to do if you happen to experience a hip fracture can help set you up for success.
Dangers of Hip Fractures
According to peer-reviewed research, 20 to 30% of elderly adults die within the first 12 months after breaking a hip. Those who do survive have more limited independence, as they must rely on others to help them complete even basic tasks. The reason a hip fracture is so serious is because of how it impacts daily life, and how it limits a person’s independence. About half of those who suffer a hip fracture cannot regain the ability to live independently.
Unfortunately, hip fractures are one of the most dangerous types to heal because they require almost complete immobility. This can lead not only to blood clots in your legs or lungs but also to pressure ulcers (bedsores) from staying put for too long while you’re healing. Laying for so long can also put you at risk for muscle mass wasting if left untreated.
Why are Elders at Higher Risk for Fractures?
As we age, bones can become less dense and more brittle, making them more susceptible to breaks. In addition, falls are much more common in the elderly population, as balance and coordination start to decline with age. The combination of the two make hip fractures extremely common in elderly individuals. In fact, after an adult turns 50, their risk of breaking a hip doubles with each passing decade of their life.
The top risk factors for a hip fracture include:
- Chronic medical conditions
- Certain medications
- Lack of physical exercise
- Poor eyesight
- Alcohol or tobacco use
Preventing Hip Fractures
Although you cannot control certain factors that may increase your chances for a fracture, such as age or gender, there are measures you can take to prevent a hip fracture. One of the most important things you can do is to stay active and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Exercise helps to keep bones strong, while also improving balance and coordination. Eating a well-balanced diet rich in calcium and vitamin D will also help promote bone health.
If you have any chronic medical conditions that put you at risk for falls, be sure to work with your doctor to develop a plan to manage those conditions. Additionally, if you are taking any medications that may cause you to be dizzy or lightheaded, be sure to check with your doctor before stopping them.
What to Do If You Experience a Hip Fracture
If you do experience a hip fracture, it is important to seek medical attention right away. Depending on the severity of your fracture, you may require surgery or just rest and rehabilitation.
Following hip fracture treatment, it is important to continue rehabilitative therapy and maintain an active lifestyle to heal properly and help reduce your risk for future fractures. Talk to your doctor about a rehabilitation plan that is right for you, and make sure to follow their instructions closely. With the proper treatment and care, most hip fractures can heal completely and you can get back to living a full, active life.