CINCINNATI—A team of 11 researchers across the country have developed a diagnostic model that may help identify postmenopausal women at risk for hip fractures, even before they show signs of osteoporosis.
The researchers, including Nelson Watts, MD, director of the University of Cincinnati’s Bone Health and Osteoporosis Center, evaluated clinical risk factors associated with hip fractures using data from more than 94,000 women (aged 50-79) of various ethnic backgrounds participating in the Women’s Health Initiative, an ongoing national health study.
Detailed in the Nov. 28, 2007, issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), the team identified 11 factors that were predictive of hip fractures in five years:
- General health
- Physical activity
- Personal history of a fracture after age 55
- Parent history of a fracture
- Current smoking
- Current corticosteroid use
- Treated diabetes
“Bone density scanning is the best test we have for identifying hip fracture risk,” says Watts. “However, we need other ways to identify risk because more than half of hip fractures actually occur in those whose bone density score doesn’t meet the criterion for osteoporosis.”
Watts says knowing a patient’s risk for hip fractures allows her and her doctor to develop a treatment plan that’s right for her, including medical intervention and lifestyle changes.
“I’ve been asking patients about many of these risk factors for years,” says Watts. “But now we have scientific evidence of their importance as well as the combination of factors for hip fracture risk.”
“Osteoporosis is a ‘silent’ disease,” says Watts. “People often don’t physically feel bad until they experience a complication like a fracture and they sometimes stop taking their medication or make poor lifestyle choices—that’s why it’s important for people to be proactive about bone health.”
The JAMA study was led by John Robbins, MD, of the University of California at Davis.