Every morning I wake up and stare inquisitively at myself in the mirror. And every morning, someone who looks alarmingly like my mother stares right back.
Now to be fair, I’ve always born a striking resemblance to my mom, though it seems to intensify with each passing day. She and I also share similar voices, similar handwriting, and the same inability to turn down anything made with chocolate.
For thirty years, the incidence of hip fractures in older adults had been in decline. That is, until recently. Since 2012, that number has hit a plateau, which is very concerning to Dr. Douglas P. Kiel, Director of the Musculoskeletal Research Center at Hebrew SeniorLife’s Institute for Aging Research. According to Dr. Kiel, “By 2050, the worldwide incidence of hip fracture is projected to increase by 310% in men and 240% in women compared to rates in 1990.”
Hebrew SeniorLife’s Harvard Medical School-affiliated Institute for Aging Research (IFAR) is celebrating 50 years of research focused on finding ways to optimize quality of life for all of us as we age. For half a century our researchers have explored age-related syndromes, debunking the myth that growing old has to mean growing frail.
As we age, many of us will face a number of health-related challenges. One big concern for older adults is a decrease in muscle strength (sarcopenia) and bone loss (osteoporosis). There is evidence that up to 50% of adults may suffer muscle loss as they age and further research estimates 54 million U.S. adults have low bone density or osteoporosis. Unfortunately, an osteoporotic fracture occurs every 3 seconds according to the International Osteoporosis Foundation.
Osteoporosis is a disease in which the bones become weak and are more likely to break. People with osteoporosis most often break bones in the hip, spine, and wrist. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, 54 million Americans have osteoporosis or low bone mass, putting them at risk for broken bones. Therefore, researchers are continuing to work towards finding strategies to improve bone health and decrease osteoporosis risk.
Physicians rely on bone mineral density testing as an important tool in assessing the risks for, and management of, the bone disease called osteoporosis. Although there are no guidelines for the frequency of repeating bone density tests, Medicare pays for screening every two years —without limiting the number of repeat tests, and regardless of the results of the patient's initial (or baseline) bone density scan.
Every year, nearly 1.5 million fractures are attributed to osteoporosis. But what causes bone disease and how can you protect yourself from it?
These are important questions – ones that scientists at theMusculoskeletal Research Centerin Hebrew SeniorLife’sInstitute for Aging Researchhave devoted their careers to, as well as identifying all health risks associated with bone disease. While we know osteoporosis occurs when bodies lose bone or make too little of it, what causes bones to weaken and fracture more easily with age is still not completely understood.
While calcium supplements are considered effective for bone health, there have been reports linking potential adverse effects between calcium supplements and the risk of heart disease. This information has led many seniors to question the safety of calcium supplements and whether they should take them. As lead author of a recent study completed by a team of researchers at the Institute for Aging Research (IFAR) at Hebrew SeniorLife, I can offer reassuring insight into these concerns.