A study by researchers from the University at Buffalo showed that even light physical activity (PA) like walking and housework can significantly lower the risk for hip and other fractures in women after menopause. Results of the study were published October 25, 2019 in JAMA Network Open. This study is the most comprehensive assessment of physical activity and the occurrence of fractures in post-menopausal women.
The Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) Study
Participants in the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) study were 77,206 post-menopausal community dwelling women ages 50-79 years old who were able to walk. The women were followed up at 40 US clinical centers for 14 years. The women self-reported the time spent in physical activity and the amount of time they were sedentary. The women answered questionnaires that asked them how much time a week they spent in mild, moderate and strenuous physical activity. The women were assessed for the following in association with hip fracture:
Recreational Physical Activity
Strenuous Physical Activity
Strenuous physical activity was the kind that resulted in sweating and a fast heartbeat such as jogging, aerobics, tennis, aerobics dancing or robust swimming.
Moderate Physical Activity
Moderate physical activities were less tiring such as biking, calisthenics, using an exercise machine, folk dancing or easy swimming.
Mild Physical Activity
Mild physical activities were golf, bowling or slow dancing.
Walking was evaluated separately from the above activities by how long a woman could walk for more than 10 minutes without stopping to rest.
Non-Recreational Physical Activity
Non-recreational physical activities were indoor house work like sweeping and mopping floors, vacuuming or yard work like gardening, mowing, raking or shoveling snow.
Sedentary was the amount of time spent sitting, eating, driving, riding in a car or bus, watching TV, lying down and resting (not sleeping).
Both recreational and non-recreational physical activity were associated with risks of hip, spine and total fractures.
Women who participated in the greatest amount of physical activity had the lowest amount of hip and total fractures, but had a higher risk for fractures of the knees and elbows.
Mild activity and walking were associated with a lower risk for hip fracture.
Yard work was associated with a lower risk for all fractures and hip fracture. Yard work was not associated with risks of spine, wrist or forearm fractures.
Fractures in Women in the United States
About 1.5 million fractures take place every year in American women. About 14% of these are hip fractures. These hip fractures have a 20% risk for death within the first year following the hip fracture. All of these fractures amount to $12.7 billion in health care costs.
Causes of Fractures in Senior Women
- Low bone mineral density (BMD) that can lead to osteoporosis
- A tendency to fall
- Reduction in muscle strength balance, mobility and physical functioning
Hip Fractures Can Lead To Permanent Disability and Early Death
Hip fractures are most commonly caused by unintentional falls, especially falling sideways. Hip fractures are particularly deadly, as many seniors will have complications that can lead to a permanent disability or early death. The first year after a hip fracture is a very dangerous time, as complications can set in that lead to death such as pneumonia, blood clots, bleeding and other kinds of infections. Urinary tract infections (UTI) are also very common after hip fractures. Hip fractures are also an emotional blow, especially for someone who was independent and able to take care of him/herself but now is in a more helpless and dependent situation.
Osteoporosis a Leading Cause of Hip Fractures
Osteoporosis is a disease condition that weakens bones and makes them frail and brittle and is more common in post-menopausal women. However, after the age of 70 it is also common in men.
Most Hip Fractures Are Treated By Surgery
Most hip fractures are treated by surgery and sometimes require a total hip replacement. Those who get back on their feet may need a crutch, walker or cane to help them to walk. See our blog post from August 28, 2019 to learn more about total hip replacement
However, whether they undergo surgery or not for a hip fracture, they all need extensive short or long-term rehabilitation. Generally, recovery is faster for those who were in good shape before the hip fracture.
Rehabilitation Is Begun 24 Hours after Surgery
Patients must not lie in bed a lot to avoid blood clots. Those that have surgery are usually given medicines to prevent blood clots. Rehabilitation is typically begun 24 hours after surgery for those who were operated on to repair the fracture. Physical therapy is started about a week after the fracture when the patient will be taught how to walk assisted with a walker and even how to climb stairs. This physical therapy involves all kinds of muscle strengthening exercises. Usually the patient remains in the hospital for about two weeks and then gets transferred to a short or long-term rehabilitation facility such as the Park Crescent Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center in East Orange, New Jersey.
SMART Rehabilitation at Park Crescent Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center
SMART Rehabilitation at Park Crescent Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center in East Orange New Jersey is rehabilitation at its best. With an expert staff, a state-of-the-art gym, a warm and caring environment your loved one will be in the best of hands to recover from a hip fracture or from a total hip replacement.
It is good to know that even light physical activity can lower the risk for fractures.