Not all patients can avoid injury or illness that results in orthopedic treatment. However, there are preventive measures you can take to reduce the risk of disease and injury at any age.
Osteoporosis is a condition that causes bones to thin and weaken due to the loss of bone minerals (mainly calcium), increasing the risk of fractures. The disease often develops unnoticed over many years, with no symptoms or discomfort, until a fracture occurs. Some of the most common fractures that occur from osteoporosis are wrist, hip, and spine fractures.
Throughout your life, there are things you can do to prevent bone loss. Here are some preventive tips developed by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons that you should follow:
10 and 20 years old: To make your bones as strong and healthy as possible, you need 1,300 mg of calcium each day. Instead of soft drinks, choose milk –at least three 8-oz glasses each day. Dairy products like cheese, or green leafy vegetables are also great sources of calcium.
Regular menstrual periods are important to prevent osteoporosis. Females should see a physician if they are older than 16 and have never menstruated or if they have begun to menstruate but have noticed changes in their cycle.
20 and 35 years old: Since your bones reach their peak strength during these years, it’s important to get adequate calcium and exercise to help achieve peak bone density. You need at least 1,000 mg of calcium each day. Weight-bearing exercises like jogging or walking also will help make your bones stronger.
35 and 50 years old: At this stage in your life, you may have begun to gradually lose bone, so getting enough calcium (1,000 mg each day) and exercise is crucial to minimizing bone loss. Most women enter menopause between the ages of 42 and 55. If your period becomes irregular or if you develop signs of menopause, talk with your physician. You also might want to ask about bone density screening examinations.
Over 50 years old: Women who have gone through menopause may be losing bone at a rate of 1 to 6 percent per year. Ask your physician about the various therapies on the market, and if they are appropriate for you. Adequate calcium intake and exercise are still important. You should be getting 1,000 mg of calcium each day. If you rarely get out in the sun, vitamin D also may be recommended. Try to walk, jog, or perform a resistance workout for at least 20 minutes, three times a week.
Preparing the body for exercise is important for persons at any age and fitness level. The key to preventing injuries before exercising is to warm up. One of the best ways to warm up is to do flexibility or stretching exercises.
The key to proper stretching lies in the way you perform the exercise. When you are stretching certain parts of your body, you should not feel pain. Staying relaxed is very important to stretching properly. Make sure your body is not tight. Your shoulders, hands, and feet should be kept relaxed as you stretch and you should breathe slowly.
Consult with your orthopedic doctor for information on specific, beneficial stretching exercises.
Among older adults, falls are the leading cause of injury deaths. The most common and serious type of age-related fall results in a hip fracture, which can have a devastating impact on quality of life. More than one-third of adults 65 years of age and older fall each year. Among people 75 years of age and older, those who fall are four to five times more likely to be admitted to a long-term care facility for a year or longer.
Here are some tips to help keep your bones strong:
- Be sure your diet contains the necessary calcium and vitamin D during childhood, adolescence, and adulthood.
- Exercise to minimize bone loss. Weight-bearing exercises, such as walking, jogging, hiking, climbing stairs, dancing, aquatic exercises, treadmill exercises, and weight training are all recommended. However, consult with your doctor before beginning any vigorous exercise program.
- For women, ask your physician about medication to prevent menopausal bone loss such as estrogen replacement therapy, calcitonin, or other medications currently under development.
- Eliminate smoking and excessive alcohol use, which cause bone loss and increase your risk for a fracture.
As you age, your body does not bounce back from injuries as easily. Falls and fractures among older adults can sometimes be prevented by following safety measures and being aware of the risks in order to avoid them. Here’s how to reduce your risk of falling:
- When you first wake up, sit on the edge of the bed and make sure you are not dizzy before you get out of bed.
- Be careful around pets; they can get in front of your feet or jump on you.
- Use a cane or walker if you are unsteady. Promptly replace worn rubber tips of these devices.
- In terms of bathroom safety, never grab a towel rack, shampoo holder, or soap tray for support in the shower. These will not hold your weight. Let the soap suds go down the drain before you move around in the shower. Do not turn suddenly. If you are prone to falling, use a shower chair and a handheld shower attachment. Clean up puddles of water immediately. Do not lock the bathroom door. That will delay help in reaching you.
- When using stairs, never carry any package that will obstruct your view of the next step. Keep at least one hand on the handrail. Concentrate on what you are doing; don’t be distracted by sounds.
- Arrange clothes in your bedroom closet so they are easy to reach. Replace satiny sheets and comforters with products made of non-slippery material, i.e., cotton, wool.
- Wear glasses if you need them but remove reading glasses before you walk.
- If you are not close to the telephone when it rings, don’t rush to it. Fast, sudden moves could throw you off balance. Make sure you have access to a telephone that you can reach to call for help if you fall. Consider carrying a portable phone.
- Wear clothes that fit you properly. You can trip on a coat, pair of pants, or bathrobe that is too long. Don’t leave clothes or newspapers on the floor. Close cabinet drawers so you won’t stumble over them.
- Consult with your physician if you require medications regularly that can alter your balance or cause dizziness.