Osteoporosis, a bone disease that affects almost 44 million people in the U.S., is a wide-scale health problem with many repercussions for public health. With osteoporosis, the bones themselves weaken through decreased mineralization. This can lead to weak and brittle bones that can fracture from falls, bumps, or even small events like sneezing.

The commonly held belief has been that hip fractures associated with osteoporosis are among the most deadly. 

While this is still true–with mortality rates higher than the general population after a hip fracture–a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism shows that the risks associated with any type of fall are potentially very serious and carry a higher risk of mortality during the year following the fracture.

Watch This Video and Learn About Osteoporosis

Non-hip fractures make up 50% of all fractures associated with osteoporosis. Researchers in the study found that proximal fractures, that is those fractures close to the body, like the ribs or pelvis, all carry the potential of shortening life. Distal fractures, in the wrists or ankles, themselves aren’t necessarily implicated in shorter lifespan, but they do double the risk of re-fracturing another, often more serious, bone.

Researchers instead looked at the possibility for re-fractures with any initial fracture. They found that “the risk of having a subsequent fracture is the same, no matter what the initial fracture type.” 

A wrist fracture, therefore, can raise the likelihood of a hip or vertebral fracture in the 12 months following the fractures. Even more serious is a re-fracture of the hips. Researchers found that men over 75 who re-fractured a hip after an initial fracture were at an 80-90% mortality risk.

Based on research from the Dubbo Osteoporosis Epidemiology Study, researchers in this study aimed to show that all osteoporosis caused fractures should be treated with the same seriousness as hip fractures. Therefore, osteoporosis medications should be used to decrease the risk of further fractures, and those with osteoporosis should follow the guidelines provided by the National Osteoporosis Foundation on moving safely and preventing falls.

Do you suffer from osteoporosis? What do you do to prevent falls? 

Image by ashraful kadir via Flickr

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