Did you know that 1 in 3 women (and 1 in 6 men) who reach their 90th birthday will suffer a hip fracture at some point during their lifetime?
And that, according to the University of Chicago Medical Center, 20% of people who fracture their hip will die within a year of the injury? And a full 75% never make a full recovery?
Since 90% of hip fractures occur after age 60, it’s an issue mainly affecting older people. But if "older" means 60, and 60 is the new 80 and the Boomers are steadily making their way into their 60s then there are an awful lot of us about to join this at-risk group.
It’s predicted 33% of Boomer women will break a hip. And 20% of that 33% about 7 out of every 100 women will die within a year of that injury. That’s a bigger number than the percentage of women who die from breast cancer.
What are we going to do with these disturbing statistics?
First, build awareness. Women’s recognition of the threat of breast cancer has risen sky-high since the 1970s, when Betty Ford publicly revealed her battle with the disease. These days, if you don’t recognize the pink ribbon as breast cancer’s symbol; if you don’t know that a lump in your breast could spell trouble; if you’re unaware that breast cancer is the most common women’s cancer, after skin cancer, then you’ve got your head in the sand.
But how many women have ever heard the statistics quoted above? How many fear a hip fracture as much as they do cancer? And how many women know what to do to avoid this traumatic later-life injury?
Not many. Certainly not enough. Spread the word by emailing this to your friends via the link at the top of this post.
Next, build bones. Again, how many Boomer women understand the relationship between calcium, vitamin D, and bone health? It takes daily diligence to track everything you eat, and the vitamin and mineral supplements you take, to ensure you’re getting enough calcium and vitamin D to prevent lessening of bone density. Less-dense (more porous) bones = greater risk of fracture. Remember the 1 in 3 statistic? If you’d rather not be that 1, you have to pay attention to calcium and vitamin D levels in your diet.
You also have to exercise. Yeah, I know, B-O-R-I-N-G. Everyone’s always telling you to exercise. Well, get with the program. The reason exercise keeps coming up is because it’s so gosh-darned important to your health.
Weight-bearing exercises are the most critical for bone health. But ALL kinds of exercise are good for your overall health and balance. And balance and fitness are key elements in preventing the accidents and falls that most often lead to hip fracture.
Finally, live a healthy overall lifestyle. Why? Not just because you’ll feel better. But because those most likely to die with a year of hip fracture are weak and sick in other ways. They’re overweight, have heart issues, liver problems, or other challenges that might have been prevented, given some healthier choices earlier in life.
Want to avoid a hip fracture? If you’re unlucky enough to break your hip, want a better chance at recovery? Start today. Once you’re flat on your back in the hospital, contemplating bed sores, pneumonia, hip replacement surgery, and moving to a nursing home, it’s too late.
PJ Hamel is senior digital content editor and food writer at King Arthur Flour, and a James Beard award-winning author. A 16-year breast cancer survivor, her passion is helping women through this devastating disease. She manages a large and active online survivor support network based at her local hospital and shares her wisdom and experience with the greater community via HealthCentral.com.