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Hip Protectors Lower Fracture Risk in Elderly

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"We are terribly concerned about hip fracture in the elderly," Irving P. Ratner, MD, tells WebMD. "This sort of hip protection is an excellent idea, whose time has come. Hip protectors will probably avoid the need for surgery and save some patients from injury and even death." Ratner is the immediate past president of the Medical Society of New Jersey and an orthopaedic surgeon in private practice in Burlington, N.J.

The people who are most likely to fall and break a hip are the very old, Kannus says. "If you are independent and able to get around, you don't need a hip protector. But if someone has problems with balance, or has already fallen repeatedly, that person or their caregivers should seriously think about using a hip protector."

In addition to using hip protectors, there are several practical steps people can take to prevent falls and hip fractures, Stevens tells WebMD. "Exercise is the single most effective thing, because it increases muscular strength and balance." Next, check to be sure the home has adequate lighting, with grab bars in the bathroom and railings on both sides of the stairs. Get rid of throw rugs.

To lower the risk of falls, people over 65 should wear lace-up shoes with thin, non-slip soles, Stevens says. "Thick soles are a hazard because you can't really feel the floor."

Finally, a doctor or other health professional should review ALL the medications the person is taking, to be sure the dosages are appropriate. Sometimes interactions between two medications can cause drowsiness or dizziness that can lead to falls.

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