In November, falls prevention and osteoporosis awareness month, let’s make bone health a priority to prevent, among other things, injuries, often more frequent in the winter months.
Strengthen your bone health
Did you know? As we age, our muscle mass and bone density start to decrease, often without our even noticing until a fracture occurs after a fall. According to data from Osteoporosis Canada, approximately 80% of all bone fractures in people over 50 are caused by osteoporosis, a condition that causes loss of bone mass and weakening of bone tissue.
Although several risk factors for osteoporosis are inevitable, here are a few actions you can take to prevent it.
Examine the contents of your plate
Make sure you eat a varied and balanced diet and, above all, consume sufficient vitamin D (salmon, egg yolks) and calcium (dairy products, almonds, etc.). Calcium strengthens bones while vitamin D helps calcium to be well absorbed by the body. Other than vitamin D and calcium, magnesium, vitamin K and potassium also have a beneficial effect on bone health. Discuss this with your pharmacist to determine if a supplement would be good for you.
Good to know: More than 4 cups of coffee a day can increase calcium loss from bones.
Physical activity plays a key role in preventing falls by strengthening the spinal column and muscles, and then slowing the bone loss that occurs over the years. If you aren’t in the habit of exercising, consult a kinesiologist who can advise you on movements to do or avoid. Certain exercises that apply pressure to the bones of the hips, knees and vertebrae, like brisk walking, tennis or dancing, are particularly beneficial in promoting the depositing of calcium in the bones.
A Canadian study of more than 61,000 postmenopausal women found a 41% drop in the risk of hip fractures in women who walk more than 4 hours per week, compared to those who walk less than one hour.
Take care of your posture
Keep it in mind to constantly straighten your back and your head, and remember to keep your shoulders back. You can even set an alarm to go off several times a day to remind you of your posture and how to improve it. It’s an everyday job that simply requires thinking of it.
Quit smoking and drink less coffee
If you didn’t already know, smokers are more affected by osteoporosis. It is never too late to quit.
Keep your home safe
To protect yourself from falls, consider making the proper arrangements in your home. It may be a perfect time to declutter your living space and keep only the essentials for your daily life.
Take a look around your home. You may find that some rugs are slippery, that electrical wires get in the way, or that some rooms are poorly lit.
Eliminating obstacles, installing non-slip mats and grab bars in the bathroom, and storing heavy objects at the bottom of cabinets are all simple measures to put in place for your safety. To this end, the Government of Canada has published a brochure containing numerous recommendations for your protection.
Do you know the STAND UP! Program ? Implemented by the Public health expertise and reference center, this is a 12-week program offered by CLSCs for people over 60 years of age who are independent and living at home. The content of the training consists of advice on avoiding falls and making arrangements in your home.
Would you like to know what your risk factor for falls is? Santé Montréal has developed a questionnaire for this purpose.
How to avoid outdoor falls?
Some seasons are more conducive to outdoor falls. Winter, of course, with its sidewalks sometimes poorly cleared of snow, and patches of ice, but also Fall, because of slippery leaves in wet weather.
During the winter season, buy crampons that you can adapt to your boots. If you are traveling with a cane, use a walking stick with a retractable ice pick. Remember to move slowly with small steps and keep your hands out of your pockets.
To summarize, fall risk factors for seniors are related to overall health, including diet and physical activity, and the environment. There are ways and resources to protect yourself from indoor and outdoor falls. Once you've taken these steps, all you have to do is enjoy the magic of winter!