The Fragility Factor

Fragility-Factor_350x175pxKnow Your Risk for Osteoporosis and Fragility Fractures

A simple fall from tripping over an area rug or a loss of balance when standing up is not a serious concern for many of us. But for older adults, these small missteps can cause their bones to fracture, and can sometimes send their overall health into a downward spiral.

A fragility fracture is often the first sign of osteoporosis, or loss of bone density. In many circumstances, the risk for a fragility fracture is not known until after it happens.

What is a Fragility Fracture

A fragility fracture occurs when bone mass is weakened by age or disease. These fractures often happen after normal activity, and once experienced, they place a person at a ten-fold risk of it happening again, says Jennifer Jerele, MD, orthopedic surgeon at Miami Valley Hospital.

“Fragility fractures are most common in women who have osteopenia and osteoporosis, which both occur as we age and our bone density stops accumulating,” explains Dr. Jerele. “Unfortunately, osteoporosis is not a disease that can be felt or seen and therefore may go unnoticed until a fracture occurs.”

The most common fragility fractures occur in the wrist, hip, or spine. “We accumulate bone density until we hit 30 years of age, and after that we gradually start losing it,” says Dr. Jerele. “This  especially affects women after menopause. Their bone density tends to drop dramatically unless they make lifestyle changes or begin medication.”

Take Preventive Action

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.

To reduce your risk for fragility fractures, consider the following actions:

  • Know your history – Find out if you have a family history of osteoporosis or fragility fractures. If so, talk  to your doctor about modifying your lifestyle.
  • Make lifestyle changes – Nutrition and exercise are important. Try adding weights or strength training exercises to your daily activity. Take calcium and vitamin D supplements; increasing these vitamins  can provide a 25 percent risk reduction of hip  fractures in older adults.
  • Try a team approach – Women should discuss their risk for fractures with their family physician and gynecologist. Ask about a DEXA Scan or any medications they would recommend to help strengthen bone mass.
  • Monitor regularly – At your annual health checkup, ask your family doctor or OB/GYN if you should be monitoring your bone density and if a DEXA scan is right for you.
  • Adjust your environment – Reduce your risk for falls at home. Move furniture out of walkways, add a night light to pathways, remove or secure areas rugs, and install railings in restrooms.

Have Questions?

Talk to your doctor about your risks for fragility fractures. For more information on Premier Health’s orthopedic services, visit our page on orthopedic services.