Former President George H.W. Bush has a good chance at a complete recovery after breaking a bone in his neck in a fall, but a top doctor tells Newsmax Health that the scary accident highlights the dangers seniors face from at-home spills.
Bush, 91, remains hospitalized following the fall at his summer home in Kennebunkport, Maine. A spokesman said he is “fine,” although he’ll have to wear a neck brace.
Neck injuries from falls by seniors, while not as common as broken bones to hips and other areas, can be debilitating, even fatal.
“Bush’s injury doesn’t appear to be life threatening” based on reports about the accident, said internist Marc Leavey, M.D. However, details about the injury, such as which bone was broken, have not been released.
Bush, the nation’s 41st president, suffers from vascular Parkinson’s disease, which requires him to use a scooter or wheelchair to get around. It is not known if Parkinson’s contributed to his fall.
There are seven bones in the neck, and those that are most important are located in the upper region closest to the skull, said Dr. Leavey, who works at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore.
“Since there are indications that Bush’s hospital stay will be short and he’ll only need to wear a neck brace, this indicates to me that he probably didn’t break one of the more critical bones closer to the skull,” he said.
There was no details offered on the circumstances of fall, but the fact that it didn’t do more damage is an indication that he is probably in “good shape for a 91-year-old,” said Dr. Leavey.
Bush has long been known for his fitness. He celebrated his 90th birthday by going skydiving.
“This type of physical zeal is probably a key reason why he’s in such good condition,” Dr. Leavey said.
These are steps that elderly people – or their loved ones – can take to make sure that their bones stay in good shape and are resistant to fractures, said Dr. Leavey.
• Get tested: Women age 65 and older should undergo regular bone-density tests to screen for osteoporosis, the so-called “brittle bone” disease of aging. Men can develop osteoporosis as well, but since a woman’s bones are thinner to begin with, females are at higher risk.
• Get enough vitamin D: Vitamin D is necessary for strong bones and, although the body synthesizes it from sunshine, this ability diminishes with age. Wearing sunscreen also inhibits this process, Dr. Leavey said.
Adults should consume 600 IU of vitamin D a day, and that increases to 800 IU for people over the age of 70, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) says. Older adults should ask their doctor for a test to make sure they are not vitamin D deficient. If they are, supplements can be taken.
• Get enough calcium: The NIH recommends men consume 1,000 mg daily of calcium up until age 70 and 1,200 mg after that. Women ages 51 and over should consume 1,200 mg of calcium.
Calcium can contribute to kidney stones, and there is concern that it could contribute to heart disease, especially in women, so people should talk to their doctors about calcium supplements before taking them.
• Fall-proof your house: Put in railings, remove scatter rugs and clutter, and install adequate lighting, especially over staircases.
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