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5 Ways To Avoid Hip Fractures as You Get Older

October 18, 2021

As you get older, your eyesight worsens, your bones weaken, and you can develop balance problems or arthritis, which all put you at greater risk for hip fractures from falls. 

Here’s what you need to know about hip fractures and how to prevent them. 

More than 300,000 people in the United States sustain a hip fracture every year. Most of these fractures occur in patients 65 years or older who are injured in falls. Unfortunately, one in five adults age 60 and over dies within 12 months of suffering a hip fracture. 

Hip fractures almost always require surgical repair or replacement. Your doctor can determine the best treatment option based on your age, health condition and severity of the fracture. 

Where Hips Fracture 

The femoral head of the hip socket is offset from the thigh bone, which creates a significant amount of stress on that joint during daily activities. As bones weaken over time, whether due to osteoporosis or other factors, that area becomes more susceptible to fracturing if you fall. 

Bone quality decreases the most in places like the lumbar spine, wrist and hip since those areas are more likely to experience the effects of osteoporosis and sustain a fracture with or without a fall or other trauma, like a car accident. 

Types of Hip Fractures 

Hip fractures can occur in two places: 

  • Femoral neck fracture: Located inside the actual capsule of the hip joint, it’s more difficult to heal — especially if the hip is displaced and a surgeon fixes it with screws or other orthopedic implements. 

  • Intertrochanteric fracture: Located a bit lower than the actual hip joint itself and typically occurs in older and frailer patients. 

Treatments for Hip Fracture 

In more active patients with femoral neck fractures, doctors may perform a total hip arthroplasty. Those who are more frail will likely undergo a hemiarthroplasty, which is also called a partial hip replacement. 

With an intertrochanteric hip fracture, doctors will almost always treat it with internal orthopedic implements, which may include a side plate with screws or a rod that goes down the center of the bone. 

Common Causes of Hip Fracture 

Tripping is one of the most common reasons why older people fall and fracture their hips. There could be a change in height from room to room, being pulled to the ground by pets, or a rug in front of a door where they could easily stumble and lose their balance.  

Tips to Prevent Falls 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are several things you can do to lessen your risk of falling, including: 

1. Talk to your doctor, who can evaluate your risk for falling, review your medications to see if any might make you dizzy or sleepy, and possibly suggest vitamin D supplements. 

2. Get screened for osteoporosis and get treatment, if needed.

3. Do strength and balance exercises to improve your balance and make your legs stronger. 

4. Have your eyes checked at least once a year and update your glasses, if needed.

5. Elder-proof your home by moving items you could trip over, adding grab bars to your tub or shower and next to the toilet, and putting brighter bulbs in your lamps. 

If you fracture your hip, doctors will get you into surgery and rehab as soon as possible. Delay in surgery increases the chances of having complications. 

Full rehabilitation from a hip fracture is possible after hip fracture surgery, but it can be challenging. By six weeks post-surgery, you should be healing, and by six to 12 months, you’re usually back to your pre-fracture level of movement, depending on your level of activity before the fracture.

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