As you age, the risk of hip fracture grows more prevalent. Swedish researchers have found a simple way to estimate the risk of hip fracture in older adults; ask them if they have impaired balance.
“It maybe can be regarded as a self-evident result,” Dr. Karl Michaelsson of University Hospital in Uppsala, one of the study’s authors, told Reuters Health. “But it has never been shown before.”
Falling, along with bone fragility, are the two key factors responsible for osteoporotic fractures, Michaelsson and his team write in the American Journal of Epidemiology. While poor balance is known to increase fall risk, evidence for a link between scientifically measured balance and the risk of fracture has been mixed, they add.
The researchers decided to investigate whether asking people about their balance might be an alternative to complex tests for measuring balance. They enrolled 714 pairs of twins 55 or older, of whom one had reported impaired balance and one had not, and followed them for about 7 years. By looking at twins, Michaelsson noted in an interview, the influence of genetics is automatically removed.
Twins who said their balance was impaired had a more than three-fold greater risk of fracturing a hip. Roughly 4 in 10 hip fractures were linked to poor balance.
WHILE STUDIES HAVE SHOWN THAT EXERCISE PROGRAMS TO IMPROVE BALANCE CAN HELP PREVENT FALLS, Michaelsson noted, such programs have not been shown to directly reduce fracture risk. However, he and his colleagues say, the current findings suggest that people who report impaired balance would be the best candidates for such programs.
SOURCE: American Journal of Epidemiology, January 15, 2009
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