Slip sliding away. . . that’s not what you want to do, especially during the cold weather months when roadways, sidewalks, steps and other outside areas can be covered with ice, “black ice” and other slippery elements. In fact, you may have to be even more vigilant when navigating during the fall and winter, since slip and trip accidents increase during the autumn and winter seasons. Why? There’s less daylight; leaves fall onto paths, making them wet and slippery; and cold weather leaves ice and snow buildup on paths and roads.
The truth is that those cold snaps can lead to cold snaps—fractures resulting from slips or falls. And, incidentally, slips, trips and falls account for 15 percent of all accidental deaths each year, the second-leading cause behind motor vehicles. They also make up 25 percent of all reported injury claims per fiscal year, leading to 95 million lost work days each year—and cost nearly $80 billion annually.
Some of the causes of falling include the loss of footing, loss of traction, changes in reflexes, vision problems, changes in bodily muscle and fat and other variables. Of course, ice-covered walkways, steps and other areas can directly contribute to loss of footing and loss of traction, leading to a fall.
That’s why it’s smart to keep pathways clear—whether outside or inside—such as clearing sidewalks of snow and ice and making them navigable, or even removing obstacles such as cords, cables, throw rugs and more in the home that may cause a fall. You’ll also want to ensure proper lighting so that you can see and avoid possible triggers for tripping or falling. Additionally, balance exercises can help build stability to lessen chances of a fall
After a slip or fall, anyone can be susceptible to a bone fracture. However, for those with thinning bones or osteoporosis, whether known or unknown to them—that’s right; some don’t know they have thinning bones or osteoporosis until a fracture is their first “symptom”—it can set them on a slippery slope to major health setbacks or even death.
And lest you think thinning bones is an “old woman” health problem, just know that after the age of 30 for men and women alike, the rate at which your bone tissue dissolves and is absorbed by the body slowly increases, while the rate of bone building decreases—leaving you with a small amount of bone loss each year after age 30. It can begin as early as age 25 for women, however. Unfortunately, children and teens could be well on their way to unhealthy bones, too, since nearly nine out of 10 teen girls and seven out of 10 teen boys don’t get enough calcium in their diet, while three out of four teens don’t get enough vitamin D—two essential nutrients for healthy bone building. In fact, calcium requires adequate vitamin D to be absorbed properly.
And slipping and falling with thinning bones or osteoporosis can be disastrous. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) says that falling is the cause of the fracture in nine out of 10 older Americans with a broken hip, and of all broken hips, more than 90 percent are associated with osteoporosis. Hip fractures make the elderly five to 20 percent more likely to die in the first year after this injury compared to other elderly individuals who hadn't experienced hip fractures.
Some ways to strengthen bones include getting enough calcium and vitamin D in your diet or through supplementation to keep your bones strong. Exercising regularly, particularly weight-bearing exercise (such as hiking, jogging, tennis, climbing stairs or dancing), and resistance exercises (such as free weights and weight machines at gyms or health clubs), is essential, too.
Be on guard this season. Don’t let cold snaps lead to bone snaps or worse.