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Fracture Prevention: 6 Tips to Fight Fractures, Slips, and Falls

Learn how just a little effort and forethought today can help you prevent fractures tomorrow.
By
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

If you have osteoporosis, treating the condition directly -- with medicines or calcium supplements -- is obviously important. But it's also crucial to do everything you can to avoid the most serious risk of osteoporosis: broken bones. Practicing fracture prevention is a vital part of your osteoporosis treatment.

According to the National Institutes of Health, osteoporosis causes 1.5 million bone fractures every year. And these broken bones can be a lot more than painful and inconvenient. They can have a devastating and sometimes permanent impact on your health.

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Osteoporosis Treatments

Although osteoporosis cannot be reversed, it can be prevented and treated in a variety of ways. There's calcium and vitamin D, both key to bone health. Exercise is another critical part of strengthening bone mass. There are drugs on the market that slow bone loss and even hold promise of building new bone. WebMD takes a look. 

Read the Osteoporosis Treatments article > >

So what can you do to avoid broken bones and painful rehab? Here's a list of six tips for fracture prevention that every person with osteoporosis should know. By asking your doctor the right questions -- and making a few changes to your habits -- you can greatly reduce your risks.

The Importance of Fracture Prevention

In people with osteoporosis, fractures can happen anywhere, but wrist fractures, hip fractures, and spinal fractures are the most common. The effects can be serious. 700,000 people with osteoporosis fracture their vertebrae every year, and many are left with chronic pain. Of the 300,000 people with osteoporosis who have a hip fracture this year, half will never be able to walk again without assistance. And a staggering 20% of people over age 50 who break a hip will die within a year from complications.

If you're older and have osteoporosis, not only are falls much more dangerous, but they're more likely too. As you age, your body's muscle tone decreases. Your vision worsens. You're more likely to need medications, which can affect your balance. Even seemingly trivial things, like needing to go to the bathroom more in the night, can up your odds of falling. Essentially, a number of minor risks associated with aging coalesce at the same time, greatly increasing the possibility of a fall and fractured bone.

The good news is that with some simple changes to your lifestyle, you can seriously lower these risks. Here's a rundown of what you can do.

Fracture Prevention Tip: Exercise to Improve Balance and Strength

Many people with osteoporosis worry about the risks of exercise. After all, if you're jogging on a treadmill or out hiking, aren't you at higher risk of falling? What could better protect you from a broken bone than sitting in a comfy armchair all day?

Although the argument makes intuitive sense, it's actually backward. The fact is that exercising reduces your risk of falls.

"Keeping physically active helps your reflexes stay sharp and your muscles stay strong," says Shreyasee Amin, MD, a rheumatologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. "That can help with coordination and lower your risk of falling." If you're fit, your balance is better, and that makes you much less likely to take a fall than someone who has become bedridden and infirm. 

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