How Height Loss Screening Can Predict Future Hip Fractures

Indian doctor talking with patient
LWA/Dann Tardif/Getty Images

Height loss screening is a strong predictor of future hip fracture due to osteoporosis, or loss of bone mass, for senior women and men.

Early screening is crucial because osteoporosis is known as a "silent disease" and often goes undetected until a fracture occurs. More prevalent than you might imagine, more than half of Americans age 55 and older have either osteoporosis or low bone mass. 

Commonly known as a disease that affects women, men face a significant risk from osteoporosis too.

Thirty million post-menopausal women either have or are at risk for osteoporosis, which is responsible for about 300,000 hip fractures per year -- men account for 25 percent of that number.

Hip Fracture Prevention Is Important

Since falls are the leading cause of fractured hips, take the appropriate measures to avoid them. 

Prevention is important because elderly patients with broken hips, sadly, have catastrophic outcomes.

  • nearly 50 percent never function "normally" again
  • 25 percent require nursing home care after their injury
  • 20 percent die of infection, blood clots or other complications within six months after the fracture
  • the majority of people who lived independently before breaking their hip need assistance afterward

Preventing Falls at Home 

Most falls happen at home, so take the time to make it a safer place. Simple measures you can take to decrease your chances of falling include

  • putting in additional lighting and/or brighter bulbs
  • installing grab bars in your bathroom
  • keeping hallways and entryways clear of clutter and knick-knacks

Improve Your Balance with Exercise

Good balance and coordination keep you from falling, but can diminish with age. Exercise is one way to regain some of what you've lost. Dancing at a Zumba class, swimming at the local pool and learning Tai Chi are some fun ways to get the exercise you need.


Men and Women are Both at Risk

The Women's Health Research Institute at Northwestern University warns hip fractures are a major threat to public health in America. Some research hoping to uncover which groups are more likely to suffer a hip fracture focuses on different analyses of data collected from more than 3,000 men and women over a 50-plus-year span participating in the Framingham Heart Study. 

Long-Term Height Loss

A study based on the aforementioned cohort and published in the Journal of Bone Mineral Research found recent height loss in older men and women, as well as long-term height loss of 2 inches or more in men, predicted hip fracture. The researchers explained the loss is most likely due to:

Short-Term Height Loss

Another study, based on the same data, from the Institute for Aging Research of Hebrew Senior Life, linked recent height loss in men and women to an increased risk of hip fracture within the next two years. These researchers also found men whose long-term height loss measured 2 inches or more had almost more than two times the risk of hip fracture than men with less.


American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: Hip Fracture Prevention (2013)

International Osteoporosis Foundation: Facts and Statistics

Hannan, et al. Journal of Bone and Mineral Research: Height Loss Predicts Subsequent Hip Fracture in Men and Women of the Framingham Study (2012).

Women's Health Research Institute: Getting Shorter? Height Reductions Signals Risk for Fractures 

Continue Reading