Healthy muscle and bone strength help decrease the risk of falls; however, as individuals mature, they often lose both strength and endurance. Here are 4 ways nutrition can help prevent falls.
Facts about older adult falls
Each year, millions of Americans age 65 and older suffer a fall, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Many falls don’t cause injuries; however, the consequences of falling can be significant. One in every five falls causes a serious injury—like a broken bone, a fracture, severe pain, or a head injury— that could limit one’s mobility or even prevent someone from living independently. Other CDC facts include:
- Falling once doubles the chances of falling again. Many people who fall limit their activities in fear of another fall, which could cause their bodies to weaken, thereby putting them at greater risk of falling again.
- Over 800,000 patients are hospitalized annually due to a fall injury, most often because of a head injury or hip fracture. In fact, more than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falling, usually by falling sideways.
- Each year about $50 billion is spent on medical costs related to non-fatal fall injuries and $754 million is spent related to fatal falls.
Fortunately, many falls are preventable. One example of prevention is through getting the proper nutrition as well as enough nutrition. According to a study, malnourished inpatients were nearly eight times more likely to have a harmful fall than those not malnourished, independent of age and BMI.
Ways nutrition can help prevent falls:
1. Eat a protein-rich diet
Protein is essential for preserving bone and muscle mass as a person ages. Seniors with decreased protein intake are more vulnerable to muscle weakness, sarcopenia (loss of muscle mass), and frailty—all of which increase the risk of falling.
Tip: Protein-rich foods include dairy products, meat, poultry, fish, and eggs. Vegetable sources of protein include legumes, tofu, grains, nuts, and seeds
2. Get enough calcium and vitamin D
Calcium and vitamin D work together to protect the bones. Calcium helps build and maintain bones, while vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium effectively. A lack of calcium throughout life can contribute to osteoporosis, a disease that causes the bones to become weak and brittle. A fall or even mild stresses like bending over or coughing can cause a fracture to those with osteoporosis.
Tip: Good sources of calcium include dairy products, dark green leafy vegetables, bony fish, and calcium-fortified foods and beverages. Vitamin D is found in foods like fish, eggs, fortified milk, and cod liver oil.
3. Drink plenty of fluids
Dehydration can cause dizziness, lack of coordination, and confusion, which can all cause falls. Sometimes people can become dehydrated without realizing it—such as when the weather is warm, if they’re taking diuretics (“water pills”) or other medications, or if they have a specific condition like diabetes. Individuals also tend to lose body water as they age.
Tip: Aim for 6-8 glasses of non-alcoholic liquids a day.
4. Take iron or B vitamins to prevent anemia
Anemia (low iron and possibly low vitamin B12) in older adults is associated with muscle weakness, dizziness, and fatigue and is a treatable risk factor for the prevention of falls and fractures. One research study showed elderly people who are anemic have a higher risk for injuries from falls, such as fractures or head injuries. Researchers found there was a trend of increasing risk of falls with decreasing hemoglobin numbers in the elderly. Those with anemia had a 57% increased chance of an injurious fall if their hemoglobin was less than 10 g/dL compared with those who weren’t anemic
Tip: Iron-packed foods include dark-green leafy vegetables, legumes, seeds, red meat, shellfish, fish, and eggs. Foods that are high in vitamin B12 include clams, fish, crab, low-fat beef, fortified cereal, fortified soymilk, fortified tofu, low-fat dairy, cheese, and eggs.
Learn more about Mom’s Meals and how we can help individuals get the nutrition they need to stay healthy. We provide choice in what our customers eat along with menus to support the unique needs of most common chronic conditions.