Things that increase your risk for hip fracture
In older adults, hip fractures are usually caused by a fall. Even a slight fall can sometimes cause a fracture in a weakened hipbone. Children and young adults are more likely to break a hip because of a bike or car accident or a sports injury.
Falls cause more fractures—including hip fractures—as people age because, starting at about age 30, bone begins to be reabsorbed by the body faster than it is replaced. Over time, it naturally gets thinner (less dense), weaker, and breaks more easily. If bones thin a certain amount, you are said to have osteoporosis. Both osteoporosis and hip fracture affect women more often than men because men have higher bone density than women and because of the decrease in the hormone estrogen in women after menopause. Having lower levels of estrogen speeds up bone loss and results in weakened bones. Lower levels of testosterone in men can also speed up bone loss.
Although men are also at risk for hip fracture as they age, women have lower bone density to begin with, more bone loss after middle age, and live longer than men. As a result, more than 75% of all hip fractures occur in women.1
Studies have found that daily use of medicines called SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) may raise the risk of bone fracture in adults over age 50. SSRIs are used for conditions such as depression and anxiety. They are associated with bone loss and also increase the risk of falling.2 Talk to your doctor about this risk before taking an SSRI.
One study showed that taking medicines called PPIs (proton pump inhibitors) for a long time, especially in large doses, may raise the risk of hip fracture in adults over age 50. PPIs decrease the amount of acid in the stomach. This reduces heartburn and other symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). PPIs are also used to give peptic ulcers time to heal.3 Talk to your doctor about this risk before taking a PPI.
Other things that increase the risk for hip fracture include:
- Your family history (heredity). Being thin or tall, or having family members who had fractures later in life increases your risk.
- Race. White and Asian people have a higher risk of osteoporosis; black people have a lower risk. Osteoporosis raises the risk of a fracture if you fall, so the risk of hip fracture is also higher in whites and Asians.
- Poor eating habits. Not getting enough calcium and vitamin D can weaken bones.4 Studies show that calcium and vitamin D supplements will not prevent fractures in people who already have risks of fracture such as low body weight or previous fractures.5, 6 But getting enough calcium and vitamin D over your lifetime will help you have stronger bones as you age.
- Smoking. Smoking puts you at a higher risk for osteoporosis and increases the rate of bone thinning after it starts.
- Drinking alcohol. Don't drink more than 2 alcohol drinks a day if you are a man, or 1 alcohol drink a day if you are a woman. Drinking more than this puts you at higher risk for osteoporosis. Alcohol use also raises your risk of falling and breaking a bone.
- Not being active. Moderate amounts of weight-bearing exercise, such as walking and dancing, can help keep bones strong.7
- Having certain medical problems. Some medical conditions, such as Ménière's disease, can cause problems with balance or dizziness. Other conditions such as arthritis can interfere with your ability to be steady as you walk and move.
- Drug interactions. Sometimes one medicine you are taking changes the action of another medicine, or the drugs act together to create unexpected side effects. These can include dizziness or blurred vision that make falls more likely.
- Cummings SR, Melton LJ III (2002). Epidemiology and outcomes of osteoporotic fractures. Lancet, 359(9319): 1761–1767.
- Richards JB, et al. (2007). Effect of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors on the risk of fracture. Archives of Internal Medicine, 167(2): 188–194.
- Yang YX, et al. (2006). Long-term proton pump inhibitor therapy and risk of hip fracture. JAMA, 296(24): 2947–2953.
- National Osteoporosis Foundation (2008). Prevention. Available online: www.nof.org/prevention/index.htm.
- Porthouse J, et al. (2005). Randomised controlled trial of calcium and supplementation with cholecalciferol (vitamin D3) for prevention of fractures in primary care. BMJ, 330(7498): 1003.
- Grant AM, et al. (2005). Oral vitamin D3 and calcium for secondary prevention of low-trauma fractures in elderly people (randomised evaluation of calcium or vitamin D, RECORD): A randomised placebo-controlled trial. Lancet, 365(9471): 1621–1628.
- Feskanich D, et al. (2002). Walking and leisure-time activity and risk of hip fracture in postmenopausal women. JAMA, 288(18): 2300–2306.
- Haentjens P, et al. (2003). Colles fracture, spine fracture, and subsequent risk of hip fracture in men and women: A meta-analysis. Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, 85-A(10): 1936–1943.
Last Updated: May 27, 2009
Author: Shannon Erstad, MBA/MPH