Preventing Slips and Falls: Protect Your Bones and Your Wallet

Rose Chon Health Guide
  • Doctors have known for years that osteoporosis boosts the risk of bone fractures. The most typical sites of fractures related to osteoporosis are the hip, spine, wrist and ribs, although the disease can affect any bone in the body. In particular, hip fractures are largely due to falls, most of which may be preventable.

    Both men and women are at risk, but women have two to three times as many hip fractures as men and the rate increases for people 65 and older. Because of the aging U.S. population, the number of hip fractures per year is expected to reach 650,000 by 2050; that’s nearly 1,800 hip fractures a day!
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    How serious are hip fractures?

    A hip fracture may not sound as severe as a bone that is completely broken, but it is a break in the thighbone just below the hip joint. It is a very serious injury that may cause disability, reduce quality of life and even lead to death in some cases.

    Many Americans age 45 and over are admitted to hospitals each year with hip fractures and osteoporosis is the underlying cause of most of these injuries. Most patients who suffer from this injury end up in a nursing home. In addition, approximately 50 percent of nursing home residents experience a fall.

    In 2003, 1.5 million people 65 and older lived in nursing homes. If the current rates continue, this number will double by 2030. This represents approximately 5 percent of the adult population. However, people in nursing homes account for about 20 percent of death from falls in this age group.

    Although modern orthopedic care and surgical techniques assist satisfactory bone healing, most hip fracture patients require more long term rehabilitation. If a hip fracture patient previously lived alone, he or she will require assistance from their family or home care. Many patients over the age of 65 are discharged or transferred from hospitals to long-term care facilities.

    The death rate for hip fracture patients is higher than for other people of the same age who do not experience the injury. Only about one in four will make a full recovery. Over half will need a cane or walker and approximately 25 percent of those over age 50 will die within 12 months.

    Who is vulnerable to hip fractures?

    So, who are most likely to fall and fracture their hip? The following is a list of some of the common characteristics of persons who are at high risk of hip fractures:

    -      Age: the rate increases for people 65 and older.

    -      Gender: Women have two to three times as many hip fractures as men.

    -      Heredity: A family history of fractures in later life, particularly in Caucasians and Asians, although African American and Hispanic Americans are at significant risk as well. A small-boned, slender body is also a risk factor.

    -      Nutrition: A low calcium dietary intake or reduced ability to absorb calcium.

    -      Personal habits: Smoking or excessive alcohol use.

    -      Physical impairments: Physical frailties, arthritis, unsteady balance and poor eyesight.

    What are the medical costs?

  • Medical costs related to fractures are burdensome to both the individual patient as well as the U.S. health care system. For the individual, each hip fracture represents an estimated $40,000 in medical costs. For the U.S. health care system, the total cost of all osteoporotic fractures in 2001 was estimated to be almost $18 billion, which included costs for hospitalizations, emergency department visits, and treatment in outpatient settings. The cost of osteoporotic fractures to the health care system is expected to exceed $60 billion by the year 2030.
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Published On: March 05, 2007