I have never broken a bone in my life.
But now, approaching 65, I am more concerned about falling and breaking a hip than I have ever been.
According to research, women between the ages of 65-69 who break a hip are five times more likely to die — within a year — than women of the same age who don’t break a hip.
Women are more prone to osteoporosis — the condition where the creation of new bone slows too much to keep up with the bone tissue you lose as you age.
But men, too, are at risk of softer, weaker bones as they age, which can cause a fractured hip, pelvis, or other bone, from even simple, everyday movements.
And other factors are closely associated with broken bones…
A recent study has identified 10 factors that, if they apply to you, add up to a 30 percent higher chance you’ll suffer a fracture in the next two decades.
Some of them are beyond your control. But others are things you can address now to prevent broken bones later on.
10 things that make you a target for a bone fracture
1 and 2. Age and gender. According to American Bone Health (formerly the Foundation for Osteoporosis Research and Education), age and gender are the biggest risk factors for fractures.
Even at their strongest, women’s bones are smaller and less dense than men’s bones. Also, women lose more bone density as they age due to the loss of estrogen.
However, their research also says that 25 percent of men over age 50 will have a fracture sometime in their life.
3. Weight. While being slightly overweight may have some protective effect against hip fractures, significant overweight or obesity seem to have quite the opposite effect.
It’s thought that belly fat produces inflammatory compounds that are detrimental to bone. Also, being overweight is associated with diabetes, which increases fracture risk.
4. Leisure-time physical activity. By studying twins who differed in their habitual physical activity levels, researchers determined that regular leisure-time physical activity increases bone thickness and weight-bearing capabilities, thus preventing fractures.
5. Smoking. Smoking is one of the surest ways to weaken your bones. Smoking reduces blood supply to the bones. It decreases the absorption of calcium and breaks down estrogen more quickly. And, nicotine slows down the production of osteoblasts (bone-forming cells).
6. Alcohol. Heavy drinking also interferes with the absorption of calcium through its effect on the liver, which is important for activating Vitamin D, which in turn is necessary for calcium absorption.
7 and 8. Family history or previous fracture. If you have a history of a family member suffering a fracture after the age of 50, you’re at higher risk. And if you’ve previously suffered a fracture, your risk for that happening again increases as well.
9. Living alone. People who live alone have a higher risk of hip fractures. Factors that may contribute are poor diet and less physical activity. People living alone and may skip cooking nutritious meals and may feel uncomfortable about attending social activities alone. Reach out and join a senior center if this sounds like you.
10. Heavy work. Whether it’s a job or you like to do things around the house, heavy work is tied to bone fractures. Take extra caution and avoid doing heavy work at home alone. Invite a friend over to help.
Nutritional help for avoiding fractures
As with so many things, your diet can play a huge part in preventing fractures.
Make sure to include the following nutrients in your diet daily.
Calcium. Calcium isn’t just found in dairy products. Dark, leafy greens like spinach and kale have lots of calcium. So do sardines, and many seeds (ex., sesame and poppy seeds). You might talk to your doctor about your calcium levels. It’s generally best to increase calcium through diet and to follow your doctor’s advice on supplementing it.
Vitamin D. A deficiency of vitamin D exacerbates osteoporosis, causes the painful bone disease osteomalacia and increases muscle weakness, which worsens the risk of falls and fractures. Your doctor can check your levels, but supplementing is safe.
Magnesium. Without adequate magnesium, your body cannot absorb and store calcium. Greens, beans, peas, nuts and whole grains are good sources of magnesium.
Vitamin K2. Low vitamin K intake is a strong risk factor for hip fracture and low bone mass. Vitamin K2 is essential for regulating where calcium ends up in the body — in the bone where it belongs, and not in other tissues.
Vitamin K2 is found in chicken, salmon and trout, beef liver and in dairy and fermented food.
One last note: Some medications can increase your fall risk. If you feel insecure on your feet, talk to your doctor about medications you may be taking.
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Danger After Hip Fractures — Web MD
Fracture Risk Factors — americanbonehealth.org
What your weight tells you about your bones — betterbones.com
Long‐Term Leisure Time Physical Activity and Properties of Bone: A Twin Study — Journal of Bone and Mineral Research
Smoking and Musculoskeletal Health — Ortho Info (American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons)
The role of vitamin D for bone health and fracture prevention — Current Osteoporosis Reports