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Daily News

How to avoid falls and fractures that can be so costly to older individuals

Erie Times-News

Orthopedic surgeons provide both nonoperative and operative care of fractures.

We encounter fractures resulting from falls every day. Falls can happen anytime and anywhere to people of any age.

Falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries in people age 65 and older. A fall can be a major life-changing event that robs an elderly person of his or her independence.

Most hip fracture patients will not make a full recovery. Many will require nursing home admission or be dependent upon a cane or a walker.

Unfortunately, some hip fracture patients die within one year of their fall.

Each year, more than one in four adults ages 65 and older fall. More than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falling, and about three-quarters of all hip fractures occur in women, according to information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Falls result in more than 3 million injuries treated in emergency departments annually, with 800,000 hospitalizations and more than 27,000 deaths, according to the CDC.Edward Glennon, M.D.: How to reduce your risk of colon cancer

To prevent falls and fractures, the CDC has several suggestions, including talking to your health-care provider and reviewing your medicines to see if any may be making you dizzy or sleepy.

Have them evaluate you for risks of osteoporosis and vitamin D deficiency. This may include blood work and imaging to evaluate bone density.

Exercise, balance and strength training activities, such as climbing stairs, jogging, hiking, dancing, tai chi and weight training, can aid agility, strength, balance and coordination. They also help build bone strength and slow progression of osteoporosis.

Have your eyes checked at least once a year and make sure your prescription is up to date. Be careful when using bifocals and progressive lenses as these may make things seem closer or farther away than they really are.

Make your home safer by removing things you could trip over. Add grab bars in the bathroom near the tub, shower and toilet. Put railings on both sides of stairs. Make sure your home is well lit.

Ensure your safety by having someone check in on you daily. Consider a medical alert device so that you will be able to contact help if you are injured.10 years later: A look back at UPMC Hamot's affiliation with the Pittsburgh health system

If you fall, do not panic. Take several deep breaths and assess the situation and determine if you are hurt.

If possible, slide or crawl on the floor to the nearest couch or chair, and try to get up. If you're badly injured, do not try to get up. Instead, call for help from a family member or close neighbor.

If you are alone, crawl slowly to the telephone and call 911.

In the unfortunate event that you suffer a fall, an orthopedic surgeon is trained to treat your injury and guide you on your road to recovery.

Jeffrey Nechleba, M.D., is an orthopedic surgeon at UPMC Hamot.