Without a doubt, falls and the injuries they create can lead to long-term disability. It can change your quality of life.
If you are 65 years old or older, the United States Preventive Services Task Force recommends using exercise and physical therapy to improve balance and strengthen muscles.
An estimated one-third of adults 65 and older fall at least once a year. Falls can cause moderate to severe injuries, including fractures, decreased mobility and independence, and even death, according to a USPSTF news release. Risk factors for falls include older age, a history of falling, muscle weakness, problems with walking, and problems with balance.
Exercise can help prevent falls among adults who are at increased risk. Exercise and physical therapy that improves balance, stability, and the ability to perform common tasks have been most commonly studied.
In addition, multifactorial interventions—a way for clinicians to assess and address risks of falling that are tailored to an individual person—can benefit some people. Interventions could include exercise, nutrition therapy, medication management, and social or community services, among others.
“Falling is the most common cause of unintentional injury for older adults. The Task Force found that clinicians can help many older adults prevent falls by recommending exercise or physical therapy,” said Task Force Vice Chairman Alex Krist, M.D., M.P.H.
Based on the current evidence, the task force also recommends against taking vitamin D to prevent falls.
After looking at the evidence on supplementation for the primary prevention of fractures in adults who live at home and have no history of fractures related to osteoporosis, the task force found:
Lower doses of vitamin D and calcium do not prevent fractures and recommends against daily supplementation at lower doses (400 IU or less of vitamin D and 1,000 mg or less of calcium) in women who have gone through menopause.
The evidence is unclear about whether higher doses may help prevent fractures and there is not enough evidence to recommend for or against supplementation with higher doses of vitamin D and calcium (greater than 400 IU of vitamin D and greater than 1,000 mg of calcium) in women who have gone through menopause.
There is not enough evidence to recommend for or against vitamin D and calcium supplementation, alone or combined, to prevent fractures in men or in women who have not gone through menopause.
Bone fractures can cause serious disability and death in older adults. Women who have gone through menopause are at increased risk of fractures. Other factors that increase risk for both men and women include having low bone mass, older age, smoking, and an increased risk of falls.
“We found that taking low doses of vitamin D and calcium does not prevent women who have gone through menopause from getting fractures,” said Task Force member Carol Mangione, M.D. “We need more research to understand if taking higher doses of vitamin D or calcium helps to prevent fractures in women who have gone through menopause—or at any dose for men or younger women.”
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