Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Deadly falls - is nutrient loss a key factor?

My Grandfather quickly lost his spark and desire to live once he had a fall that broke his leg (or hip I can't remember). If my gray matter is correct he did it in Bolivia, where he almost died due to altitude and non western hospitals.

It wasn't until my father, who is a polio victim mentioned that he had attended a seminar by a physiotherapist who said that falls are deadly for elderly. When an elderly falls and breaks limbs, it often signals the end of their active life and death soon follows. Once you know this, you can see the pattern in your elderly relatives with a disturbing frequency.  

So make sure you do balance improving exercises as you age (your inner ear looses its finer sense when you age so you don't notice you are off balance till it is to late).

I hadn't thought about the nutritional effects of a fall. Obviously when you are incapacitated you can't get up an cook (if you live by yourself). Nor will be out and about enjoying life, which often centers around a meal time. As appetites in elderly are often already reduced, the extra stain may reduce them further. Lastly if the person has extra income due to a pamphlet run, or selling preserves, or some other active income, this income will stop. This lack of income would put pressure on a budget that is already tight. Thus fresh foods may drop off the menu.

All this means that nutrient intakes would be lower. This could have all sorts of negative consequences, from taking longer to heal, secondary infections, more susceptible to things like pneumonia (which is serious for elderly). I didn't connect with this until I was reading a paper about vitamin E post hip fracture in elderly. The paper had the above hypothesis (and it was correct) that vitamin E would drop post fracture as the diet dropped in quality.

So the question I have is: If doctors/nurses gave elderly fracture patients some multivitamins along with the pain med's etc. if they wouldn't have such a high mortality post fracture.

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