Fragility Fractures Often First Sign Women May Have Low Bone Density

DAYTON, Ohio (February 23, 2018) – Fragility fractures can significantly impact an older woman’s quality of life, however, it’s often not until one is suffered that she realizes she was at risk for it in the first place.

Simple falls like those sustained from tripping over an area rug or losing balance while standing up often go unnoticed for many of us. But for older adults, these small missteps can actually cause their bones to fracture, and can sometimes send their overall health into a downward spiral.

A fragility fracture occurs when an older adult’s bone mass is weakened by age or disease. These fractures often happen after normal activity, and once experienced, place a person at a ten-fold risk of it happening again, said Jennifer Jerele, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at Premier Orthopedics.

“Fragility fractures are most common in women who have osteopenia and osteoporosis, which both occur as we age and our bone density stops accumulating,” said Dr. Jerele, who practices with Premier Physician Network. “We accumulate bone density until we hit 30 years of age and after that we gradually start losing it. This especially affects women after menopause. Their bone density tends to drop dramatically unless they make lifestyle changes or begin medication.”

The most common fragility fractures occur in the wrist, hip or spine. Osteoporosis is one of the leading causes of fragility fractures, leading to nine million cases worldwide, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Unfortunately, osteoporosis is not a disease that can be felt or seen and therefore may go unnoticed until a fracture occurs, Dr. Jerele said.

The best way for a woman to know if she is at risk for osteoporosis or fragility fractures is to have her bone density tested through a Dexa Scan. The scan compares the density of a person’s spine and hip to that of a healthy 25-year-old. This provides a T-score, which helps guide future treatment or therapy.

Dr. Jerele said women can play an active role in reducing their risk for osteoporosis and fragility fractures by considering the following actions:

Know your risk factors – Talk to your family and see if there is a history for diseases such as osteoporosis or if relatives have ever experienced fragility fractures. If the answer is yes, then talk to your provider on ways to modify your lifestyle.

Make lifestyle changes – Nutrition and exercise can play a vital role in reducing a woman’s risk for fractures. Try incorporating weights or strength training exercises into your daily activity. Dr. Jerele also encourages women to begin taking calcium and vitamin D supplements. Studies have shown that increasing these vitamins can provide a 25 percent risk reduction of hip fractures in older adults, she said.

Make it a team approach – Discuss your risk for fractures with your family physician and gynecologist. Dr. Jerele said the topic may not be top priority in some patient visits so they shouldn’t be shy about bringing it up. Be proactive in asking if a Dexa Scan would be appropriate or if there are any medications they would recommend to help strengthen bone mass.

Make monitoring routine – Give bone density the same priority that is given to breast health. Dr. Jerele encourages women to schedule a yearly Dexa Scan at or around the same time that she has her yearly pap smear or mammogram. This ongoing monitoring can best show if there have been any changes in bone density.

Make changes to your environment – Look for ways to reduce your risk for falls in your home. Move low-lying furniture out of walkways, install lights in the hall - such as a night light to light pathways, remove or secure areas rugs, and install railings in restrooms for extra support.

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