A new study presented at the American College of Rheumatology Annual Meeting in San Francisco claims that certain fractures resulting from osteoporosis could cause premature death in people aged  after 40 and above. To date, this is the largest study that shows an association between such fractures and premature death.

Osteoporosis And The Risk Of Fractures After 40

Osteoporosis is a well-known condition that causes bones to weaken. It affects both males and females particularly as they grow older. Osteoporosis occurs due to loss of bone density and changes in bone structure. It is more commonly seen in older women, mostly of non-Hispanic white or Asian descent.

In the US, approximately 4.5 million women and about 0.8 million men above the age of 40 suffer from osteoporosis. Risk factors for developing the disease include lack of physical activity, use of glucocorticoids, inflammatory arthritis and smoking.

Osteoporosis can significantly increase the risk of fractures, which is a major concern in the elderly population – about one-third of all deaths related to falls are due to low bone density. Despite such statistics, osteoporosis is poorly managed and treated, and a lack of awareness of its potential dangers is the main cause for taking no action.

Looking Into The Dangerous Matter: Collecting Data

“Health professionals have known for some time that a hip fracture in the elderly increases their risk of dying in one to two years after the event. However, there is little awareness that other fractures could also increase this risk, and we decided to highlight this matter”, explained Lyn March, MD, PhD, University of Sydney Liggins Professor of Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Epidemiology at Kolling Institute of Bone and Joint Research and Sydney’s Royal North Shore Hospital.

The team gathered initial health information from 125,174 women and 113,499 men in New South Wales, Australia, who on average were 63 years old when they were recruited in the study between 2006 to 2008. They were followed up for about 5.7 years till they died or till December 31, 2013. Information gathered via questionnaires was linked to medical codes obtained from emergency hospital admissions denoting fractures. Information was also obtained via birth, marriage and death registries.

Considering age, sex, co-existing ailments and previous fractures, the researchers observed fractures and deaths. A total of 14,827 fractures were reported during the study – 9,145 in women, and 5,682 in men. Also, 15, 621 deaths took place during the study – 5,604 women, and 10,017 men.

Deciphering A Connection

The team observed that 15.7 men died for every 1,000 person years in the study (calculated by multiplying the number of people in the study by the number of years in the study). On the contrary, 7.9 women died for every 1,000 person years. However, these rates increased two-fold in cases involving fractures – 33 men and 19 women with fractures died for every 1,000 person years in the study.

“It was surprising to see that almost all fractures in the elderly (except those from fingers and toes) were linked with an increased risk of dying, as compared to other men and women of the same age who had not had a fracture”, highlighted Dr March. “Common fractures, such as spinal fractures that cause stooping over, arm, collarbone and wrist fractures from a simple fall, or pelvic fractures from a trip on the stairs or a slip on ice all increase the risk of dying in the next few years”.

Prospects

These outcomes highlight the importance of conducting more studies into the risks of osteoporotic fractures. “Our study highlights the need for further research into the reasons for an increased risk of dying after fractures, and also suggests the need to treat osteoporosis as a serious condition in order to prevent such fractures from occurring”, concluded Dr March.