Breaking a hip may be one of the most devastating events that can happen to anyone over 65.
And making a bad situation even worse, a new international study has found that the repercussions from a hip fracture can last much longer than ever imagined.
But along with that bad news, some other research has just come out about bones and fractures.
And what that study found is that the drugs your doctor may be prescribing you to prevent a break could be doing just the opposite.
A number of years ago a survey of women over 70 found that the majority would rather die than end up in a nursing home because of a hip fracture.
Unfortunately, many are dying. And that’s true even years later.
A new study that looked at close to 123,000 people around the world found that even if a hip fracture patient appears to be on the road to recovery, their danger of dying is still double what it would ordinarily be eight or more years after their fracture.
And during the first year after that break, their risk of death nearly triples!
Bundled into that risk, according to researchers from the Hellenic Health Foundation in Athens, Greece, are complications following surgery, heart and respiratory problems, along with blood clots and pneumonia. Another danger comes from the possibility of chronic inflammation that can happen after a fracture.
But while it seems that doom and gloom research got a lot of media attention, another recent study got little notice. And that one revealed what may be a big reason why so many seniors (especially women) are at an increased risk for breaking a hip in the first place.
What scientists at the Imperial College London discovered is that some very commonly-prescribed drugs for osteoporosis, called bisphosphonates, can weaken bones by causing numerous tiny cracks in them.
Such drugs, which include Fosamax, Reclast and Boniva, actually appear to be making bones “more fragile,” noted Dr. Richard Abel, the study’s lead author.
The researchers used a special “particle accelerator” type of imaging to look at bone samples taken from hip-fracture patients who were taking one of these meds. And they found large numbers of what they called “microcracks” that, Dr. Abel said, are similar to what would happen if you kept flexing a plastic ruler. You would “gradually weaken the structure” and make it more prone to breaking.
The bone samples from the patients who took the bisphosphonates were found to have close to 25 percent more of these microcracks than those from people who didn’t take the drugs. On top of that, those who were prescribed the osteoporosis meds had bones that were actually a third weaker.
Even the researchers called those results “quite startling” — which, for your typical cautious scientist, is saying a lot!
As I said, this research didn’t get much attention from the talking heads in the media, but then again, neither did any other studies with similar findings. That’s right, this isn’t the first time these so-called bone drugs have been found to actually make your bones more likely to break.
For example, two years ago the BMJ published a scathing meta-analysis of these drugs linking them not only to fractures of the thigh bone (the femur) — which is the longest and strongest bone in the body — but also to side effects such as nausea, vomiting and a condition called osteonecrosis (which literally means “the death of the jaw bone”).
It should be quite obvious by now that these drugs are not the answer to keeping your bones strong. But there are some really effective ways of doing that.
At the top of the list would be regularly taking vitamin D along with vitamin K supplements made from natto or nattokinase. In fact, vitamin D can’t do its job as well without enough vitamin K as the pair works together to protect your bones.
And adding K is especially important if you’re taking calcium, too, so the mineral ends up in your bones and not in your arteries.
But what’s most important to keep in mind is that osteoporosis drugs, rather than strengthening your body’s armor, can create chinks in it that can put you out of action for a long time. And in many cases, even permanently.
“Drug used to treat weak bones associated with micro-cracks” Kate Wighton, March 1, 2017, Imperial College London, imperial.ac.uk