If you’re over the age of 65 or know someone who is, you’ve probably heard about osteoporosis and hip fractures. When someone is diagnosed with osteoporosis, it simply means that due to low bone density, their bones continue to be fragile and weak, making them more susceptible to injuries like very dangerous hip fractures. That’s why a better understanding on how to prevent possible hip fractures can not only save you pain and decreased mobility, but it can also save your life.
When you are a baby, your bones are soft and flexible, like cartilage, but as you continue to grow, the body slowly replaces this soft cartilage with hard bone. This bone continues to build up and thicken, strengthening your bones until you are fully grown, in your mid-thirties. As a person ages, bone density starts to naturally lower. People whose bone density is extremely low are diagnosed with osteoporosis, and their bones can become extremely weak. In other words, the bones become brittle and fragile from loss of tissue, typically as a result of multiple factors, such as aging, hormonal changes, and mineral and vitamin deficiencies (such as calcium or vitamin D). The word osteoporosis literally means porous bones.
As mentioned before, the hip is extremely prone to injury and fractures due to falls. The hip is a joint located between your pelvis and the femur, or thigh bone. The hip joint is known as a ball-and-socket joint, meaning the top of the femur is round and fits into a circular socket in the pelvis. The two are held together by other ligaments that surround the joint and secure it.
Hip fractures are more common in the elderly population, and are always cause for concern, as they can be a signal that someone’s health may be declining. Osteoporosis is the main culprit for fractures that have occurred after a fall. And, research has shown that the main reason for multiple falls is when one has already occurred.
There are a few places the bones of the hip joint that most commonly result in a fracture. The most common place for a bone break is just below the top of the femur (thigh bone). This type of a fracture is dangerous for two main reasons. First, the femur’s blood supply is delicate. When the femur fractures, the blood supply can become compromised and circulation can be cut off, causing the fracture to not heal properly, or even at all. Secondly, the break in the hip makes movement of any kind very painful. Those who fracture their hip often have limited mobility, making them weak and unable to care for themselves.
Considering that more than 90 percent of hip fractures are caused by falls, lowering your risk of falls may be the answer in preventing hip fractures. Preventing a hip fracture can save someone’s quality of life, as well as literally saving their life. Fracturing your hip can lead to a decline in health and mobility, and even death if left untreated.
Evidence has shown that treatment methods that focus on increasing strength and lowering the risk of falling are far more effective at preventing hip fractures. It is falling, rather than having low bone density, that actually causes the fractures. You can lower and prevent fall risk by:
- Exercising: Weight-bearing exercise, such as lifting light dumbbell weights, has been known to slow the progression of bone loss. It also has been known to strengthen muscles that help improve balance, thus lowering the risk that a person will fall.
- Quit smoking: Smoking anything, especially cigarettes, will increase bone loss and the risk for developing conditions such as osteoporosis. If you quit smoking, you will help slow down the amount of bone that you are losing.
- Eating a well-balanced diet: Eating a well-balanced and nutritious diet, rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein, and vitamins, will provide the essential amount of nutrients for bones to rebuild themselves, lowering the risk of breaking your bones if you fall.
Preventing hip fractures can save your life. to learn more about how to persevere through osteoporosis and be the strongest you can be to help prevent injury, call Watauga Orthopedics at (423) 282-9011, or request an appointment online.