It is an unfortunate truth that the older we get, the less dense our bones become. Being aware of this as we age is invaluable when it comes to avoiding falls that may result in a break. In particular, hip fractures are incredibly common, while being an experience that all would rather avoid! Every year in the UK, more than 70,000 people are admitted to the hospital with a hip fracture. The vast majority of these cases are aged 60 or above. While this might sound scary, there are plenty of proactive steps that you can take to reduce the risk. But first, let’s begin by identifying what exactly a hip fracture is.
How Is A Hip Fracture Defined?
When we think of our hips, we imagine our pelvis and the tops of our thighs. Within this area is a ball and socket joint, which serves to connect the femur – or thigh bone – to the pelvis. Hip fractures are defined as a crack or break in the femur, in close proximity to this joint. To keep us on our toes, a doctor would refer to this injury as a ‘proximal femoral fracture’.
What Increases Our Risk Of Hip Fracture?
Many factors may increase our risk of hip fracture in later life. In most instances, this injury results from a fall. In our senior years, we may experience poor mobility, a loss of balance, or impaired vision, making falls more likely. Certain medications may also leave us a little unsteady on our feet. Beyond a fall in its own right, other factors can also elevate risk:
Sufferers from this disease will find that their bones are more fragile, and therefore more vulnerable to fractures. Women are statistically more likely to receive an osteoporosis diagnosis, accounting for four out of every five cases.
Women face another risk factor post-menopause. When oestrogen levels drop at this stage in life, decreased bone density can result.
- Early-life Nutrition
Poor nutrition over the course of childhood and adolescence can take its toll on our bone density, right through into later life. This can be a factor in the probability of developing osteoporosis.
Prevention Is Better Than Cure
Knowing that we are at greater risk of hip fracture in later life may seem a little doom-and-gloom but forewarned is forearmed! We can get our bone density tested, to be as informed as possible of the risks. There are also medications that can be prescribed to improve bone density, and then there are many positive strategies for prevention.
Safety Check The Home
We tend to think of our homes as safe havens, but a high percentage of hip fractures occur in this most familiar of places. Simple safety measures can make our inner sanctum much safer, such as:
- Installing slip-resistant mats and grab bars in the bathroom.
- Looking for hazards on the floor such as loose rugs and threshold bars.
- Keeping cables in check, such as the wires of electrical items or the flex of floor lamps, can help to avoid an obvious trip hazard.
- In the kitchen, arranging cupboards to make overreaching unnecessary, and adding another slip mat by the sink can make all the difference.
- Add handrails to stairways and assess the suitability of floor coverings.
- Low lighting can greatly add to our risk of a tumble. Illuminating corners and installing sensor-activated lighting in high-risk areas are excellent tactics.
Hip Friendly Lifestyle Choices
Choices that we make in our day-to-day life can go a long way to protecting us from the risk of injury. These include:
- Using a walking aid such as a stick or frame, for improved steadiness, and greater confidence in getting about.
- Choosing appropriate footwear is always wise when it comes to staying on our feet. Opt for flat shoes with rigid soles and a good grip. Badly fitting shoes will certainly do no favours, and of course, apply this logic to slippers too!
- Getting a regular eye test and wearing whatever visual aids are prescribed makes spotting hazards much easier. Always make a visit to your optometrist if you notice any change in your vision – in addition to the usual regular check-ups.
- Staying active is vital for maintaining balance and mobility. Performing weight-bearing exercise helps us hold on to our bone density for longer. Look for activities that suit your capabilities and speak to your GP before taking on anything new – especially if you have any pre-existing medical conditions. All the better if you can find a form of activity that is fun too!
- Explore the use of a modern hip protector, as today’s designs are no longer the bulky and uncomfortable accessories of yesteryear. A protector will act as a shield for your bones in the case of a fall, absorbing the impact and directing it away from the hip area.
Recognising The Signs And Symptoms Of A Hip Fracture
When a hip fracture does occur, it is likely to be apparent, however, this isn’t always the case. Some may experience strong and chronic pain in the groin area. They may be unable to walk or even stand. In a smaller number of cases, certain types of fracture may not result in such severe pain, leaving the sufferer unaware. In these instances, being alert to signs is very important, as a hip fracture can be potentially life-threatening. If you notice any of the following symptoms, call the emergency services immediately, and ensure that the injured party stays still until they arrive:
- An inability to lift the leg or stand.
- Swelling and inflammation in the hip area.
- Noticing that one leg appears shorter than the other.
- The appearance that one leg is slightly twisted and turned outward.
Seeking Support From Qualified Carers
Recruiting help for around the home is another effective strategy for reducing the risk of accidents. Our carers at Heritage Independent Living can provide in-home support that makes avoiding precarious moments far easier. Providing greater peace of mind to our clients, our carers are fully trained in how to respond in emergency situations, and always make safety the first priority. Click here to discover more about Heritage Independent Living and our staff.