By SUSAN CALLAHAN, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist
Hip fractures are deadly. Deadlier, in fact, than cancer. From 20 to 24% of all people who have a hip fracture die within 12 months of the fracture.
And of those who don’t die, many are permanently disabled. Did you know that hip fracture is the leading cause of disability among those over 60 years old? Over 50% of those who have a hip fracture never walk again. For many, a hip fracture, therefore, is the one accident which permanently changes the course of their lives.
Clearly, hip fractures are to be avoided at all costs. But how? And what are your risks for suffering a hip fracture?
Will You Suffer a Hip Fracture?
Women have more hip fractures than men. In fact, about 80% of hip fracture patients are women, according to a 2000 study from the US National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention. That study found that in 1996, a total of 340,000 over the age of 65 were admitted to the hospital for hip fracture , and 80% of these admissions were women.
Your race also affects your risk for hip fracture and your risk for dying from a hip fracture. You have a 1 in 6 chance (17%) of suffering a hip fracture, if you are a white woman. By comparison, your risk for breast cancer is 1 in 9 (11%).
If you are an African American woman, you are at a lower risk for hip fracture than white women, primarily because African American women have higher bone density. But here's the bad news. As an African American woman, you are more likely to die after a hip fracture than white women.
Diabetes Doubles Your Risk for Hip Fractures
If you have diabetes, your risk for suffering a hip fracture is twice as high as someone without diabetes, a 2015 study from Jiangsu University in China has found. This study grossly understates the risk found in an earlier study from the University of Tromsø in Norway. The Norwegian study, completed in 1996, found that men with Type 1 diabetes have a 17.8 times higher risk for hip fractures and that women have a 8.9 times higher risk, regardless of which type of diabetes they have.
Scientists do not know exactly why diabetes increases your risk for hip fractures. But we do know how to lower your risk for developing diabetes. Maintaining a normal body weight is perhaps the single most important prevention step you can take to ward off diabetes.
Although what is normal body weight varies by height and race, the National Diabetes Education Program, indicates that a woman who is 5 feet 5 inches should weigh no more than 150 pounds. A Pacific Islander of the same height should weigh no more than 156 pounds and an Asian woman should weigh no more than 138 pounds. Here is the full chart for normal body weight.
Having a normal body weight also helps to ward off hip fractures by decreasing the likelihood of falls.
Age Itself Is Strongly Linked with Increasing Risk for Hip Fractures
Of course, age itself is one of the strongest risk factors for hip fractures. With each decade, your risk for hip fractures increases. By the time you are 80, you have a 18.6% risk for a hip fracture if you are a man and a 24% risk if you are a woman, according to a 2009 study, also from the University of Tromsø in Norway, where much of the leading work on hip fractures has been done.
Being Sedentary Doubles Your Risk for Hip Fractures
Being physically active reduces your risk for hip fractures, according to many studies, including a 2011 study from Columbia University, Teachers College.
Perhaps the leading study on the link between phycial activity and hip fracture risk was a 1993 study led by Dr. C. Coupland of the University of Southampton, Southampton General Hospital, UK.
That study found that being physically active greatly lowers the risk for hip fractures in both men and women.
As the study concluded:" Subjects who did not regularly weight-bear, perform muscle-loading activities such as climbing stairs, and perform productive activities such as gardening, were all more than twice as likely to sustain a hip fracture, when compared with subjects at the higher end of the activity spectrum.”
In the UK study, researchers examined 303 elderly people who had been admitted to hospitals following one or more hip fractures, and compared them with people of the same age who had not suffered a hip fracture. All but 2 of the participants ranged in age from 55 to over 85, with most of them being over 75 years old.
Which kinds of physical activities worked to reduce hip fracture risk? The researchers found that your risk for hip fractures declines almost proportionately as you increase the amount of time spent doing the following 5 activities:
1. Standing Up Indoors.
Those who had not suffered hip fractures spent the most time standing.
In fact , 80% of those who had no hip fractures spent at least an hour per day standing and almost 50% spent over 2 hours a day standing.
You simply have to spend more time on your feet upright. One trick is make sure you get up for 10 minutes at the start of each hour. You will accumulate 120 minutes of standing time a day rather easily with this trick.
2. Walking Outdoors.
Those who avoided hip fractures tended to walk more than 30 minutes a day.
3. Walking Faster -- No Slow Poking Around.
Those who avoided hip fractures were not slow walkers. Over 79% described their walking speed as faster than “very slow”.
3. Stair climbing.
Climbing stairs is the secret weapon against hip fractures. This was a huge difference maker. Those who avoided hip fractures (81%) took the stairs at least once per week. Many of them walked up stairs several times a day (44%).
4. Productive activities. Those who spend time in productive activities have fewer hip fractures. They spend time gardening, cleaning, and house repair work, for example.