Injuries from falls are a real problem for seniors. Many seniors report that their fear of falling and possibly injuring themselves keeps them from socializing and interacting with others outside their homes, creating a serious quality-of-life issue for them. Researchers believe that they have discovered a link between fractures from falls and a decreased level of sodium in the blood, known as hyponatremia, according to The Caregiver's Home Companion.
Researchers at the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, studied more than 5,000 adults older than 55 to establish a baseline of sodium levels, with a follow-up evaluation to establish data on falls and fractures six years later. Eight percent of the study participants had particularly low levels of sodium, had higher levels of diabetes and were more likely to use diuretics. This group also had a higher rate of falls than the other participants: 24 percent versus 16 percent. Interestingly, bone densities were similar for all participants, so the fractures were not attributable to osteoporosis. However, the participants with hyponatremia had much higher levels of fractures: the risk for spinal fractures was 61 percent higher in older adults with lower sodium levels, with a 39 percent greater likelihood of non-spinal fractures, such as hip fractures. Study participants with hyponatremia also exhibited a marked increase in death during the follow-up period.
Hyponatremia is a relatively common electrolyte disorder, usually resulting from kidneys retaining too much fluid. It is easily recognized and treated in hospital settings; yet non-hospitalized folks may be unaware that their sodium levels are low. Although the link between hyponatremia and fractures has not been established, the Rotterdam researchers' findings suggest that even non-hospitalized older folks should be tested for hyponatremia and treated accordingly, as an easy way to guard against fractures and their related complications.
For more information contact the Caregiver Resource Center.
The Senior Connection is a column provided by the Clinton County Office for the Aging. For more information about services for senior citizens, contact their office at 135 Margaret St., Suite 105, Plattsburgh or call them at 565-4620. Information is also periodically provided by the Behavioral HealthServices North Caregiver Resource Center. They may be reached at 565-4543 or 565-4625.