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Hip fracture

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A hip fracture is a serious injury, particularly if you're older, and complications can be life-threatening. Fortunately, surgery to repair a hip fracture is usually very effective, although recovery often requires time and patience. Most people, even those older than age 80, make a good recovery from a hip fracture. Generally, the better your health and mobility, the better your chances for a complete recovery are. You can break your hip at any age, but 90 percent of hospitalizations for hip fractures are for people older than age 65. As you age, your bones become less dense as they slowly lose minerals. Gradual loss of density weakens bones and makes them more susceptible to a fracture.




You can reduce your risk of a hip fracture by taking steps to prevent osteoporosis. About 8 million American women and 2 million American men have osteoporosis. Both women and men can take steps to prevent osteoporosis.

If you're a woman, you may want to have a baseline bone density test at menopause. Women are at a considerably higher risk of low bone density than men are because women lose bone density at a greater rate than men do and because they have a lower starting bone mass. Knowing that your bone density is low can lead you to take steps to increase your bone density and prevent complications such as a hip fracture.

The higher your peak bone mass, the less likely you'll be to have fractures later in life. Maximum peak bone mass depends partly on your inherited ability to make bone, the amount of calcium you consume and your exercise level. The process of building bone mass peaks at about age 30. After age 30, you start to lose bone mass. Making the right lifestyle choices during peak bone-mass-building years and afterwards contributes to a higher peak bone mass and reduces your risk of osteoporosis in later years.

These steps can help you prevent a hip fracture by slowing bone loss:

  • Ensure adequate calcium and vitamin D in your diet. These two substances are important in the process of building bone mass, which peaks at age 30. Calcium can also protect against bone loss. Be sure to get enough calcium and vitamin D. Foods containing calcium include milk and other dairy products, dark green vegetables such as broccoli, citrus fruits, shrimp, canned salmon or sardines, and almonds. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium. Your body manufactures vitamin D in your skin using the sun's energy.

  • If you're considering calcium or vitamin D supplements, ask your doctor about an appropriate level for you. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for calcium for men and women age 50 and older is 1,200 milligrams (mg) a day. The RDA for Vitamin D is 10 micrograms (mcg) a day for adults ages 51 to 69 and 15 mcg a day for adults age 70 and older. The amount of extra calcium you need depends on your age, whether you're taking medications such as corticosteroids, how much milk you drink and other factors. How much supplemental vitamin D you need varies with how much sunlight exposure you're getting and your intake of vitamin D in foods.

  • Keep active. Weight-bearing exercises, such as walking, apply tension and pressure to your muscles and bones, encouraging your body to increase bone density to meet the additional stress. Exercise also increases your overall balance and strength, making you less likely to fall. High-impact exercises, such as those involving running or jumping, aren't recommended if you have weak bones as they may increase your risk of a fracture or injury.

  • Don't drink excessively or smoke. Preserve your bone density by avoiding the excessive use of alcohol and by not smoking.

  • Consider hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Most women who take HRT during menopause and beyond use a combination of estrogen and progestin. Estrogen helps maintain bone density. HRT slows the loss of calcium from your bones after menopause, when you experience declining levels of estrogen. Combined with exercise and adequate dietary calcium, HRT protects against osteoporosis and reduces your risk of fractures. But not all effects of HRT are positive. Taking HRT can result in certain serious side effects and health risks. Work with your doctor to evaluate the options and decide what's best for you.

  • Treatment of osteoporosis. If you have osteoporosis, your physician may recommend medical treatment to slow bone loss. This might prevent a fracture or further fractures.

These steps can help you guard against hip fracture by reducing your risk of falls:

  • Fall-proof your home. Keep your home well lit and free of hazards that might cause you to trip and fall. Avoid area rugs and exposed electrical cords. Place furniture where you're unlikely to bump into it. Consider installing grab bars in your bathroom, stair treads on steps and handrails along stairways.

  • Wear sensible shoes. If you're older, wear thinner, hard-soled, flat shoes. Resilient-soled athletic shoes may impair your balance and contribute to falls. Avoid wearing high heels or sandals with light straps. Avoid wearing shoes that are either too slippery or too sticky.

  • Avoid strenuous and dangerous activities. Don't stretch to reach high places. Use a stepladder or ask for help. Avoid lifting heavy objects, climbing and engaging in unusually vigorous activities.

  • See your eye doctor. Poor eyesight is a possible cause of falls. If you're having trouble seeing, have your eyes checked. Wearing proper glasses and being able to see well around your home makes it more likely that you'll see objects that you might trip over.

  • Be mindful of side effects of medications. Feeling weak or dizzy, which are possible side effects of many medications, can increase your risk of falling. Talk to your doctor about side effects caused by your medications.

Another effective step that won't prevent you from falling but may protect you if you do is to wear a hip protector. These padded, externally worn protectors are similar to what hockey players wear to avoid injury. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that among ambulatory older adults, wearing hip protectors reduced the risk of a hip fracture from a fall by more than 60 percent.

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