Each year there are 329,000 hip fractures in the United States. Women are about three times as likely as men to suffer this debilitating and sometimes life-threatening injury, and the risk rises with age. But gender and age aren't the only factors contributing to osteoporosis. Researchers at the University of California at Davis School of Medicine have measured the impact of 10 risk factors other than age. Now, in a new study, they've developed an easy-to-use formula that weighs all those factors and can predict—with about 80 percent accuracy—the likelihood that any given post-menopausal woman will fracture her hip in the next five years. Smoking and having poor general health, for example, each double that risk.
Through her doctor, a woman who believes she may be at risk can get a kind of X-ray scan called a DEXA, which can spot weak bones. However, the scan is expensive and imperfect, and the majority of women who experience hip fractures aren't scanned or identified as being in danger. A person who breaks a hip has approximately a 20-percent chance of dying within the year.
The new quiz may help women recognize whether they could benefit by taking preventive measures. "Our test may identify some women the bone scan leaves out," says John Robbins, lead author of the study, which appears in the November 28 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
To assess your hip health, answer the questions below and tally the points you receive; 9 points or less means your risk of breaking a hip within five years is probably no greater than 0.1 percent; 18 points means the likelihood of a fracture is about 1 percent over that period; and 24 points translates to a risk of about 5 percent. (For a precise calculation of risk, use the free Web tool at http://hipcalculator.fhcrc.org.)
"Five percent is getting up there," says Robbins. "If I had a 1-percent risk, and I had to decide whether or not to go skiing over Christmas, I guess I probably would." But others might decide differently, he adds, and each woman has to decide with her doctor if she should take precautions against hip fractures.
|Age:||Give yourself half a point for every year of age you are over 50.|
|Weight:||Give yourself 1 point for every 25 pounds you weigh less than 200 pounds. (Supporting a heavy body keeps bones strong.) Add no points if you weigh 200 pounds or more.|
|Height:||Give yourself half a point for every inch you are over 64 inches.|
|Health:||Rate your overall health:|
|Very Good/Excellent||0 points|
|Fractures:||Have you broken, fractured, or crushed a bone since your 55th birthday?|
|Ethnicity:||Which are you?|
|Exercise:||Are you physically active, that is, engaging in at least a few hours of strenuous activity each week?|
|Smoking:||Which are you?|
|A current smoker||3 points|
|A former smoker||0 points|
|Never a smoker||0 points|
|Parents:||Did your father and/or mother break a hip after the age of 40?|
|Meds:||Are you taking prednisone or another corticosteroid?|
|Diabetes:||Are you taking insulin shots and/or other medications to treat diabetes?|
|Your total score:_____|