4 DignityHealth.org/Bakersfield | Fall 2018 Don’t fall. That advice can be easier said than done, especially for older people. Weak muscles, arthritis, and poor vision all can contribute to a greater risk of falling. Karl Balch, MD, has seen the results of falling—both in his orthopedic practice as a joint replacement specialist and as an on-call surgeon in the emergency department at Dignity Health – Memorial Hospital. “Younger people fall too, but there definitely is a higher incidence in older people who fall and fracture a bone,” Dr. Balch says. “It’s the injuries that tend to be different with age—if you’re older you’re more likely to break a bone, whereas if you’re younger you’re more likely to have a muscle tear or sprain.” One reason older people tend to break bones when they fall is that bones grow weaker with age. That’s because older bodies don’t have as much calcium as younger bodies do. “If one of my patients has had a fall with a fracture, I tell them they should be taking calcium and vitamin D supplements,” Dr. Balch says. (Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium.) He also recommends that his patients who fall talk to their primary care providers about getting a DEXA bone scan to check their bone density. “If your bone density is a little low, calcium and vitamin D can help,” he says. “But if it’s really low, we have medications that can help strengthen the bone.” “Younger people fall too, but there definitely is a higher incidence in older people who fall and fracture a bone.” —Karl Balch, MD There are a number of other steps you can take to reduce your risk of falling. Here are a few Dr. Balch recommends: Do exercises that strengthen your knee and hipmuscles. One good exercise is lying flat on your side and doing leg lifts. Install grab bars in your shower. Consider using a shower chair when you bathe. Make sure your home has good lighting, including night lights for late-night bathroombreaks. Clear clutter from your floors—it’s a tripping hazard. Get rid of area rugs—or at least put sticky tape underneath them so they don’t slide. How to prevent falls Stay steady on your feet What you can do to help prevent falls Back on your feet again If you ever do take a tumble and break a bone, turn to the orthopedic specialists at Mercy and Memorial Hospitals. They’re experts at treating a variety of conditions and injuries that affect the musculoskeletal system. Get the full story at dignityhealth.org/ bakersfield/ortho .