Falls and nutrition - Stay On Your Feet
Why is nutrition a risk factor?
Nutrition is an important factor in falls prevention, as frailty results from a loss of muscle mass and strength, neuromuscular impairment, immobilisation and malnutrition.
There is growing evidence that a number of older people are undernourished or malnourished, which negatively impacts their ability to function independently. It is estimated that up to 30% of people over 60 years of age living independently in the community are suffering from malnutrition. Older Australians are at risk of developing nutritional health problems due to reduced energy needs and a decreased ability to absorb nutrients 137. Their nutritional wellbeing is also affected by living alone, access to shops and dental problems 138.
Osteoporosis and nutritional deficiencies
The 1995 National Nutritional Survey found that women aged 65 years and older consumed only 68% of the recommended dietary intake for calcium 138. The lack of calcium is strongly associated with osteoporosis, and insufficient vitamin D also reduces calcium absorption 138. A small pilot study conducted among 126 healthy adults aged between 18 and 87 years living in the community found that 42.5% of the sample in Brisbane had deficient or insufficient levels of vitamin D 139. A meta-analysis of vitamin D and calcium supplementation found evidence to support the preventative treatment of osteoporosis in people aged 50 years and older 141. Vitamin D and calcium are also useful in managing muscle wasting 125. In addition, Vitamin D deficiency has also been linked to increased postural sway and impaired physical function 71.
Nutrition and physical activity
Adequate nutrition goes hand in hand with promoting physical activity 125, as participants in physical activity must have an adequate nutrition status.
- Nutrition screening on admission to hospital or residential aged care facilities
- Sufficient intake of calcium and vitamin D, by encouraging correct diets, ensuring minimum sun exposure
- Osteoporosis screening
Who can help older people with nutrition?
- Home and Community Care workers
- Nutritional assessment by a medical practitioner
Research on falls and nutrition
- Vitamin D and falls presentation, 2007 Falls Conference, London
Resources related to nutrition for older people
- Eat Well Australia: A strategic framework for public health nutrition (2000 - 2010)
- Dietary Guidelines for Australian Adults
- Eat Well Queensland (2002 - 2012): Smart Eating for a Healthier State
- Australian Department of Veterans Affairs Cooking for One or Two facilitators kit - information on how to run classes, preparation, ingredients and food safety issues
- NOAHnet - an American website providing nutrition educational resources for older people
- Queensland Stay On Your Feet® image library - images related to nutrition and older people
- Falls Injury Prevention Collaborative Falls and Nutrition Working Group
To find out more about risk factors
For more in-depth information about falls risk factors, risk awareness, risk screening and assessment methods, refer to the Queensland Stay On Your Feet® Community Good Practice Guidelines.