WebMD Health News
Laura J. Martin, MD
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
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.
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
“I don’t want to get old, so I’m fighting it all the way,” she tells
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
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:
Women over 50 who have any of these risk factors should discuss bone mineral
density testing with their doctor, says Siris, who is past president of the
National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF).
NOF clinical director Felicia Cosman, MD, tells WebMD that the biggest
single risk factor for osteoporosis-related fracture is having a previous
fracture after the age of 45.
“In older adults, any fracture that occurs in the absence of major trauma
should be considered an osteoporosis-related fracture,” she says. “Because
these are the people at highest risk for having more fractures, the emphasis
should be on making sure they get the treatment they need.”
Cosman points out that hip fractures are the most common reason for nursing
According to NOF:
“Fractures beget more fractures,” Cosman says. “If we can interrupt this
dramatic domino effect of one fracture leading to another, we can really
improve quality of life among older people.”
Siris and most other investigators listing in the study reported receiving
consulting fees or research and salary support from companies that market
SOURCES:Siris, E.S., Osteoporosis International, April 2, 2010; online
edition.Ethel S. Siris, MD, director, Toni Stabile Osteoporosis Center, New
York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, New York,
N.Y.Felicia Cosman, MD, clinical director, National Osteoporosis Foundation;
associate professor of clinical medicine, Columbia University, New York
City.Ann Carucci, survey respondent, New City, N.Y.Columbia University/New York-Presbyterian Hospital, April 2, 2010.National Osteoporosis Foundation: "Fast Facts on Osteoporosis."
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