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Osteoporosis

Today, we have a guest post from the Osteoporosis Re-Fracture Prevention Project Officer at Royal North Shore Hospital, Christine Collins giving us some tips on preventing falls. Christine comes from a physiotherapy background and works in the Osteoporosis Clinic at Royal North Shore Hospital.
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Falls are no laughing matter – just ask Humpty Dumpty. Whilst medicine has come a long way and we no longer rely on “all the kings horses and all the kings men” to remedy fall related injuries, prevention remains key…particularly if you are an egg.

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Falls are one of the main reasons that older people are admitted to hospital. Each year, one in every three people over the age of 65 will fall. Falls can be associated with serious injuries including hip fracture and head injury. But we’re not only talking about people up ladders (or up on walls for that matter) – the most common type of fall resulting in a hospital stay is a fall on the same level, meaning a simple trip, slip or stumble.

So how do you know if you are at risk of falls? If you answer yes to any of these, you may be at increased risk of falling:
1. Have you had any previous falls (including trips, slips and stumbles)?
2. Do you suffer from any changes in your memory?
3. Do you wear glasses or have poor vision?
4. Do you take more than 4 prescription medications?
5. Are you afraid that you may fall?
6. Do you suffer from incontinence?

If you answered NO to all of these questions, then your falls risk is relatively low. But don’t stop reading. Anything you can do now to protect you from falls in the future is a bonus.

If you answered YES to any of these questions, read on to find out how you could address these problems.

Stay Active

Adult should engage in regular physical activity of moderate intensity, on most days of the week, ideally reaching a total of 300 minutes per week. This includes activities such as brisk walking, swimming, cycling, dancing or organised sport. Balance should also be incorporated into a regular exercise program. Examples include dance, Tai Chi, Yoga, or a home exercise program designed specifically to challenge your balance. Advice can be sought from a Physiotherapist, Exercise Physiologist or accredited Personal Trainer.

Here are my top tips for Staying Active:
• Physical Activity doesn’t have to be the same all the time – if it’s a nice day make the most of it and get outside for a walk, do some gardening, or go for a swim. On other days you might find it more pleasant to take part in an indoor activity such as a gym class or do some exercise on your own at home
• Doing any physical activity is better than doing none. If you currently do no physical activity, start by doing a small amount, and gradually build up to the recommended amount.
• Involve others – you may find it more encouraging and enjoyable to exercise with others.
• Everyone is different – although there are guidelines for exercise, everyone will have their own challenges. Yours may be painful arthritic knees or back. This doesn’t mean you can’t exercise – it just means you may have to choose wisely and modify your program on days when your pain is worse. Speak to a health professional to get advice. But remember, something is better than nothing!

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Information on community exercise programs in NSW can be found at www.activeandhealthy.nsw.gov.au

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Good old calcium; it keeps our teeth and bones strong, keeps our hearts healthy and helps us have healthy muscle function. Sadly we cannot produce calcium in our bodies and have to consume it (and enough of it) to stay healthy. When calcium levels are low, our body turns to our calcium bank (also known as our bones) and withdraws calcium for the rest of the body to use. However, this becomes a problem when the amount of calcium extracted exceeds the amount deposited making our bones more brittle and prone to fractures. In women, this is seen predominantly during and post menopause when there is a rapid decline in estrogen (which leads to more rapid calcium loss from bones).

Now, we all know to drink our glass of milk everyday but is it really enough? The answer is no. A cup of milk (250ml) only provides 30% of an adult’s daily recommended intake. Adults over the age of 19 are recommended to have 1000mg per day, women over 50 and men over 70 are recommended 1300mg by Osteoporosis Australia. That is equivalent to about 4 cups of milk which we may not want to drink every single day!

Myth busting: While it is commonly thought that full cream milk is better for calcium absorption due to the fat content compared to skim milk, it is not true! Fat does not actually affect calcium uptake by our bodies! So drink away whichever you prefer.

Here are some tips on how to increase your daily calcium intake:

1) Try to consume 3 – 5 servings of calcium rich food. Foods like milk (a cup), yoghurt (a tub) and cheese (a slice) have high calcium levels
2) Your can incorporate milk powder into soups and casseroles
3) Yoghurt also makes a very tasty salad dressing
4) Almonds, figs, apricots, and rhubarb are high in calcium and can be a great snack
5) Canned fishes like salmon and sardines are rich in calcium
6) Include more green leafy vegetables as part of your daily diet

**My favourite is having Babybel light! It provides you with 20% of your recommended calcium intake in a yummy little package.

As amazing as calcium is, it has a sidekick that it needs to be effectively absorbed: Vitamin D. Vitamin D can be sourced from supplements or more naturally from the Sun! Depending on where in Australia you live, the season and your skin type (fair or dark), the amount of time you need to spend in the sun varies differently. Thankfully Osteoporosis Australia has a map to show you how much sunlight your skin needs and when you need it for all over the country. !

If you are spending longer times out in the sun, don’t forget your sunscreen!

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