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Age, Bone Mass Predict Fracture Risk

Study of Postmenopausal Women Shows Depression May Also Be a Risk Factor
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Nov. 14, 2006 (Washington, D.C.) -- Age and low bone mass continue to be major predictors of fractures in postmenopausal women, according to a study of more than 170,000 women presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Rheumatology in Washington, D.C.

More than 1.5 million fractures a year result from osteoporosis, a disease that causes bones to thin and become brittle, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, based in Washington, D.C.

The new study, dubbed the National Osteoporosis Risk Assessment Study (NORA), confirms that previously identified risk factors -- a history of fracture, low bone mass, advancing age, poor health, and others -- remain the biggest predictors of fracture risk, says a study author, Ethel S. Siris, MD.

Onus on Women

"A wide array of risk factors are important for women and they need to talk to their doctor about receiving a bone mineral density test and what else they should be doing to minimize their risk of fracture," says Siris, the Madeline C. Stabile Professor of Clinical Medicine and the director of the Toni Stabile Osteoporosis Center at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City.

"This kind of information will help women open a conversation with their doctors about their personal risk factors for fractures," Siris tells WebMD.

"Patients have to be proactive," she tells WebMD. "We know in the U.S. that osteoporosis is a major public health issue in older women, but there is a gap between what we should be doing and what we are doing."

While prescription medications play a role in reducing fracture risk, adequate calcium and vitamin D consumption, as well as strategies to protect against falls, are also important, Siris says.

Risk Factors

Of the 170,314 women who completed surveys at one, two, and five years, 7,989 reported a fracture.

The study included postmenopausal women 50 or older who had no previous diagnosis of osteoporosis and were not taking medication for the disease.

In the study, women over 65 were more likely to sustain a fracture than 50- to 64-year-olds; those 85 and up were even more likely.

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