Hip fractures are occur more and more commonly. We are told from an early age how important it is to get our calcium and Vitamin D to keep our bones as healthy and strong as possible. As we age, our bones begin to become brittle and weaken causing falls which often result in hip injury, fractures, and eventually hip surgery. The likelihood of being affected by osteoporosis begins to increase. Osteoporosis is a disease in which the mass and density of our bones decrease. When this occurs, we are at a greater risk of fractures, which is why many elderly suffer from more fractures than they did when younger.
Along with osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, (CVD) is also a possible issue with the elderly. CVD includes diseases that affect and involve the heart or blood vessels. This can be caused by a myriad of things, but usually by long term high blood pressure, smoking, obesity, high cholesterol, diabetes, alcohol, and poor diet. CVD is often due to a pattern of poor habits and behaviors learned as children.
Both CVD and osteoporosis are common ailments in the elderly, and until recently have been thought as disorders that are completely independent from one another, but they do have some commonalities. A well-known risk factor for hip fractures is a stroke, although other CVD’s have not been documented enough to be included as a risk. To find correlations between CVDs and hip fracture risks, a study was conducted in Sweden.
This study, performed by Ulf Sennerby, M.D. a doctor at the Uppsala University in Uppsala, Sweden, and colleagues, included almost 32,000 sets of twins from the Swedish Twin Registry. Twins were used to determine if the association between CVD and hip fractures were due to genetics, lifestyle, or sex. This type of study not only helps determine genetic and environmental factors on families, but also as an individual study at the same time.
The twins used in the study were born between 1914 and 1944, and were followed up after they turned 50. Many twins were identified in the National Patient Registry as having CVD and fractures from 1964 to 2005. Results show that after suffering a stroke or heart failure, rates increased for hip fractures. This was compared to diagnoses of other types of CVD’s versus hip fractures. Those with heart failure had 4 more times the risk of a hip fracture, while those suffering from a stroke had 5 times the risk.
In the study, an interesting discovery was found in sets of twins where one suffered from heart failure or stroke and the other did not. The twin with no CVD also had an increased rate of fractures to the hip. This is called “pseudoexposure”. If their twin had heart failure, the pseudoexposed twin would have a 3.7 increase in hip fractures, and if their twin had a stroke, the pseudoexposed twin would have a 2.3 times higher risk for hip fracture. This data shows that genetics are most likely involved when it comes to developing cardiovascular disease and hip fractures.