Healing After a Broken Bone
Fracturing a bone is, sadly, a very common experience among older adults. As many as one fourth of men and half of women over the age of 50 will experience a fracture in their lifetime, so if you’ve suffered a broken bone as a result of a fall or other trauma, you’re not alone.
Troublingly, despite the common statistics on bone fractures, and the potentially serious negative results that older adults can suffer as a result of one, bone health usually comes in near the end of the line where health is concerned. Doctors and older adults tend to focus on what they can do to prevent heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s and other dementias, as those are well-known and large looming existential threats to health and longevity.
That would be a mistake, as broken bones are one of the leading causes of hospitalizations among older adults, and for women, ahead of heart attacks, strokes, and breast cancer. Fractures will also significantly impact your quality of life, causing pain, restricting mobility, and depending on what bone, limit your movements and freedom, hurting your mental health. Long term effects from broken bones can be particularly severe, as well, with a hospitalization from a broken bone sometimes signifying the beginning of a steady downward decline in many older adults. In fact, for ten years after suffering a broken bone, older adults will have a higher mortality risk compared to their similarly aged peers who have not had a fracture.
One may wonder how seniors are breaking their bones so frequently compared to the younger demographics, and you may think it’s due to seniors being more prone to falling for a variety of reasons. But this only tells half the story. It is the blunt impact from the falls, compounded with weak bone health, that makes seniors so brittle in a fall situation. A broken bone from a fall from standing height, such as slipping on the floor or falling off a chair, is more often than not due to there being some degree of bone loss or osteoporosis present. Despite this, the condition remains underdiagnosed, even though a hip fracture, relatively common among seniors, is one of the biggest indicators of osteoporosis.
Once you’ve suffered one bone fracture, the risk of another one is drastically increased. Medicare data shows that a first fracture of the hip or spine leads to a twenty to twenty five percent chance of experiencing a second that same year. Treatment of osteoporosis is incredibly important for this reason, and should be included in your routine health care, whether or not you’ve been diagnosed with osteoporosis, or suffered a broken bone.
Involving your physician after a fracture is critical. Good communication is important for the healing process, and also to learn what you can do to reduce further bone deterioration, improve bone strength, as well as treat any contributing conditions. Including a bone density test in your yearly physical checkup should become part or your routine after a broken bone, to track the advancement of your bone loss to inform clinical treatment.