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Osteoporosis Patients Underestimate Fracture Risk

Survey Finds That 43% With Osteoporosis Consider Fracture Risk Normal
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

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April 9, 2010 -- Many of the 8 million women in the United States who have osteoporosis don’t recognize that they are at increased risk for fractures, a new study finds.

More than 60,000 postmenopausal women from 10 countries in Europe, North America, and Australia were asked to assess their fracture risk. Some of the women had osteoporosis and others did not.

The survey revealed that 43% of women with a diagnosis of osteoporosis perceived their fracture risk to be no higher than that of other women their age.

And only about a third of women who reported two or more major risk factors for fracture considered themselves to be at higher than average fracture risk for their age group.

About half of women will experience an osteoporosis-related fracture after age 50, but many older women either don’t know they have osteoporosis or don’t understand what the diagnosis means, says lead researcher Ethel Siris, MD, who directs New York-Presbyterian Hospital’s osteoporosis center.

“Part of the problem is that clinicians are not doing adequate risk assessment and part of the problem is that women have not been educated about how to recognize their own fracture risks,” Siris tells WebMD.

Few Women Understand Fracture Risk

Sixty-eight-year old Ann Carucci of New City, N.Y., does all she can to stay healthy and fit, including regular sessions with a personal trainer and nutritionist.

“I don’t want to get old, so I’m fighting it all the way,” she tells WebMD.

But she says she didn’t know a lot about bone health when she was diagnosed with osteoporosis about five years ago.

“I really didn’t know what it meant,” she says. “But I knew I was going to do everything my doctor told me to do to make it better.”

She started taking medication and continued her strength-training exercise routine. She says her bone health improved so much that her doctor eventually took her off medication.

Carucci was one of the thousands of women who took part in the newly published survey, reported in the latest issue of the journal Osteoporosis International.

The survey’s main goal was to explore women’s knowledge of the risk factors that increased their likelihood of getting a fracture, Siris says.

Risk factors include:

  • Being postmenopausal. Estrogen helps protect bone, and its loss at menopause is associated with bone weakening.
  • Being female. Osteoporosis does affect men, but about 80% of cases occur in women.
  • Being small-framed or thin
  • Having a parent who has had a hip fracture
  • Breaking a bone after age 45
  • Having a sedentary lifestyle, smoking cigarettes, or abusing alcohol
  • Taking steroids or certain other medications
  • Having a history of certain diseases and conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis, anorexia nervosa, and some gastrointestinal disorders

 

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