Falls are serious at any age, but especially for older people who are more likely to break a bone when they fall.
If you have a disease called osteoporosis, you are more likely to break a bone if you fall. Osteoporosis is called the “silent disease” because bones become weak with no symptoms. You may not know that you have it until a strain, bump, or fall causes a bone to break.
Falls are especially dangerous for people with osteoporosis. If you break a bone, you might need a long time to recover. Learning how to prevent falls can help you avoid broken bones and the problems they can cause.
- Why Do People Fall?
- How Can I Prevent Falling?
- How Can I Prevent Broken Bones if I Fall?
- How Can I Keep My Bones Healthy?
Some of the reasons people fall are:
- Tripping or slipping due to loss of footing or traction
- Slow reflexes, which make it hard to keep your balance or move out of the way of a hazard
- Balance problems
- Reduced muscle strength
- Poor vision
- Taking medicines
- Drinking alcohol.
Illness and some medicines can make you feel dizzy, confused, or slow. Medicines that may increase the risk of falls are:
- Blood pressure pills
- Heart medicines
- Diuretics (water pills)
- Muscle relaxants
- Sleeping pills.
Drinking alcohol can lead to a fall because it can:
- Slow your reflexes
- Cause you to feel dizzy or sleepy
- Alter your balance
- Cause you to take risks that can lead to falls.
At any age, people can make changes to lower their risk of falling. Some tips to help prevent falls outdoors are:
- Use a cane or walker
- Wear rubber-soled shoes so you don’t slip
- Walk on grass when sidewalks are slick
- Put salt or kitty litter on icy sidewalks.
Some ways to help prevent falls indoors are:
- Keep rooms free of clutter, especially on floors
- Use plastic or carpet runners
- Wear low-heeled shoes
- Do not walk in socks, stockings, or slippers
- Be sure rugs have skid-proof backs or are tacked to the floor
- Be sure stairs are well lit and have rails on both sides
- Put grab bars on bathroom walls near tub, shower, and toilet
- Use a nonskid bath mat in the shower or tub
- Keep a flashlight next to your bed
- Use a sturdy stepstool with a handrail and wide steps
- Add more lights in rooms
- Buy a cordless phone so that you don’t have to rush to the phone when it rings and so that you can call for help if you fall.
You can also do exercises to improve your balance. While holding the back of a chair, sink, or counter:
- Stand on one leg at a time for a minute and then slowly increase the time. Try to balance with your eyes closed or without holding on.
- Stand on your toes for a count of 10, and then rock back on your heels for a count of 10.
- Make a big circle to the left with your hips, and then to the right. Do not move your shoulders or feet. Repeat five times.
Sometimes you cannot prevent a fall. If you do fall, you can try to prevent breaking a bone. Try to fall forwards or backwards (on your buttocks), because if you fall to the side you may break your hip. You can also use your hands or grab things around you to break a fall. Some people wear extra clothes to pad their hips or use special hip pads.
Some ways to protect your bones are:
- Get enough calcium and vitamin D each day.
- Walk, climb stairs, lift weights, or dance each day.
- Talk with your doctor about having a bone mineral density (BMD) test.
- Talk with your doctor about taking medicine to make your bones stronger.
Recommended Calcium and Vitamin D Intakes
|Life-stage group||Calcium mg/day||Vitamin D (IU/day)|
|Infants 0 to 6 months||200||400|
|Infants 6 to 12 months||260||400|
|1 to 3 years old||700||600|
|4 to 8 years old||1,000||600|
|9 to 13 years old||1,300||600|
|14 to 18 years old||1,300||600|
|19 to 30 years old||1,000||600|
|31 to 50 years old||1,000||600|
|51- to 70-year-old males||1,000||600|
|51- to 70-year-old females||1,200||600|
|>70 years old||1,200||800|
|14 to 18 years old, pregnant/lactating||1,300||600|
|19 to 50 years old, pregnant/lactating||1,000||600|
Definitions: mg = milligrams; IU = International Units
Source: Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, 2010.
For More Information About Osteoporosis and Other Related Conditions:
NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases ~ National Resource Center
Toll free: 800-624-BONE (2663)
National Institute on Aging
For the NIA publication on fall prevention, go to: www.nia.nih.gov/HealthInformation/Publications/falls.htm
American Geriatrics Society
The NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases~National Resource Center acknowledges the assistance of the National Osteoporosis Foundation in the preparation of this publication.
For Your Information
This publication contains information about medications used to treat the health condition discussed here. When this publication was developed, we included the most up-to-date (accurate) information available. Occasionally, new information on medication is released.
For updates and for any questions about any medications you are taking, please contact
U.S. Food and Drug Administration
Toll Free: 888–INFO–FDA (888–463–6332)
For additional information on specific medications, visit Drugs@FDA at www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cder/drugsatfda. Drugs@FDA is a searchable catalog of FDA-approved drug products.