In The News: April 2018
Rise in Hip Fractures among Older Women
After declining every year from 2002 to 2012, the rate of hip fractures among women age 65 and older in the United States leveled off at rates higher than were expected, leading to a rise in the overall number of hip fractures. The findings, reported in the journal Osteoporosis International (December 2017), were based on an analysis of Medicare claims data from 2002 to 2015. The researchers found that the rate of hip fractures began to plateau in 2013. From 2014 to 2015 rates of hip fractures among women ages 65 to 69 rose 2.5 percent and increased 3.8 percent among women ages 70 to 74. The result was more than 11,000 additional hip fractures. The increase is alarming because hip fractures, which most often occur in people who have the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis, are a major cause of disability. Effective diagnostic tools and medications to treat osteoporosis are available, but they may be underutilized.
Too Few Adults with Arthritis Receive Exercise Instruction
For people with osteoarthritis, exercise is a key nondrug strategy for managing pain and other symptoms. While counseling about exercise has increased, not enough primary care doctors are providing it for their patients with arthritis, according to a study published in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (January 2018). The researchers analyzed data from two national health surveys, one conducted in 2002 of 31,044 adults and the other conducted in 2014 of 36,697 adults. There was about an 18 percent increase in healthcare providers giving counseling on exercise to people with arthritis — from about 52 percent in 2002 to 61 percent in 2014. Among people who were inactive, the increase in exercise counseling was 20 percent. While the increase is significant, the authors noted that about 40 percent of people with arthritis are still not receiving counseling on exercise.
Losing Weight Reduces Pain, Not Just in Weight-Bearing Joints
Being overweight or obese is known to increase risk for developing osteoarthritis, which is the type of arthritis caused by wearing down of cartilage (the cushioning material covering bones at joints), and to make pain worse for those who have arthritis. Losing weight has been shown to reduce pain in weight-bearing joints, such as the hips and knees. A study published in The Journal of Pain (December 2017) found that improvements with weight loss can extend beyond these joints. The study included 123 obese adults on a low-calorie diet for 12 to 16 weeks. Weight loss resulted in less pain in hips and knees, but also the abdomen, arms, chest and jaw. Participants who lost weight also reported improvements in mental health, such as less depression. The greatest effects were seen in people who lost 10 percent or more of their body weight.
Physical Activity in Mid-Life May Help Protect Joints Later
Engaging in regular physical activity throughout middle age is shown to lower chances of having joint pain later in life, according to a study published in Arthritis Care & Research (December 2017). The researchers analyzed data on 6,661 people who participated in the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health. Participants answered questionnaires every three years from 1998 to 2010, which included questions about joint pain, stiffness and physical activity. The most sedentary people, who engaged in no or low levels of physical activity, in middle age had a 60 percent higher chance of later developing joint symptoms than those who routinely met guidelines for recommended amounts of physical activity. This is a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate physical activity a week. The protective effect of physical activity was stronger in obese women than in normal-weight women.