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Hip Fractures: Risks and Causes

What are the most common causes of hip fractures?

At present, every year approximately 300,000 people in the U.S. fracture their hips. The majority of those who suffer these injuries (85 percent) are 65 years of age or older. Statistical projections based on our aging population predict that hip fractures will reach half a million annually by 2040. Although hip surgeries have come a long way in recent decades, hip fractures still result in a 25 percent mortality rate within 5 years of the injury.

We should all be aware that hip fractures are not only serious, but life-altering. If you have hip issues, it is important that you address them promptly, both by reducing your risk factors for a fracture and by consulting with a highly skilled orthopedic surgeon who specializes in hips. If you have already suffered a hip fracture, of course, you require immediate care and possibly surgery.

The Most Common Causes of Hip Fractures

Every patient who suffers a hip fracture has his or her own story about the painful accident, but the reasons for hip fractures fall into the following basic categories:

  • Falls from a standing position because of illness, imbalance, weakness or dizziness
  • Falls caused by slippery floors or icy pavement
  • Falls from ladders or roofs
  • Trips over rugs, objects (or small children or animals) on the floor
  • Vehicular accidents
  • Sports injuries which are usually stress (hairline) fractures from repeated blows

Risk Factors for Hip Fracture

Many individuals who suffer hip fractures, especially the elderly, have one or more risk factors for the injury.

For a variety of reasons, aging increases the risk of hip fracture. For one thing, as we age, our bones weaken, a condition known as osteoporosis. As osteoporosis progresses, our bones lose density and fracture more easily. As a matter of fact, there are instances in which hip fractures are the cause of a patient’s fall, rather than the result of it.¬†

Another reason older people tend to fall more than younger ones is that our sense of balance worsens with age. In addition, as we age, our reaction time slows and our visual and auditory acuity lessens. Also, senior citizens are likely to be taking more medications than younger people, some of which may cause unpredictable side effects. All of these factors increase the possibility of falls. Unfortunately, the combination of more falls and weaker bones increases the risk of fracturing a hip.

Reducing Risk Factors for Hip Fracture

There are several steps one can take to reduce the risk of fracturing a hip. These include:

  • Having your balance checked by a doctor
  • Use a walker or cane if such a device is recommended
  • Get gait training to strengthen your balance and propioception (sense of position)
  • Practice Tai Chi which, though not vigorous, improves balance and coordination
  • Check for tripping hazards in your home or have a visiting nurse do so
  • Make sure to take calcium and vitamin D supplements to strengthen your bones

If you have any questions about your hip health, it is best to be evaluated by an orthopedic specialist who may recommend diagnostic imaging scans such as X-rays, MRIs or CT scans.

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