NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - The number of Americans hospitalized for osteoporosis-related fractures and other injuries has climbed 55 percent since 1995, a U.S. government report finds.
In 2006, Americans had more than 254,000 hospital stays for injuries related to the bone-thinning disease -- with fractures of the hip, spine and ribs among the most common, according to the study by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality
The figure represents a considerable increase in the rate of such hospitalizations over just one decade. In 1995, the rate of hospital stays for osteoporosis-related injuries was 55 per 100,000 people; in 2006, it was 85 per 100,000.
“This is a fairly alarming increase,” said Dr. Anne Elixhauser, a senior research scientist with the AHRQ.
The reasons, she told Reuters Health, are not known, but a number of factors could be involved.
One is the aging of the population, Elixhauser said, though this alone cannot account for the 55 percent increase.
Other culprits include lack of exercise, which helps build and preserve bone mass, and inadequate intake of calcium and vitamin D -- two nutrients crucial to bone health.
Another potential factor, according to Elixhauser, is increased use of certain medications that can lower bone mass, such as diuretics to treat high blood pressure and proton-pump inhibitors used to treat acid reflux.
Not surprisingly, most of the hospitalizations for osteoporosis-related injuries in 2006 involved older women, who are at increased risk of developing osteoporosis. Women accounted for nearly 89 percent of hospital stays in 2006, and adults older than 65 accounted for about 90 percent.
But while osteoporosis-related hospitalizations are mostly among older adults, women, as well as men, should start thinking about osteoporosis prevention early on, Elixhauser advised.
That, she said, means not smoking, drinking alcohol only in moderation and getting adequate calcium and vitamin D through food or, if necessary, supplements. Lifelong exercise -- especially weight-bearing activities that put the bones under some stress, like jogging, jumping and brisk walking -- will also help build and maintain bone mass.
People who already have osteoporosis should talk with their doctors about the best ways to lower their risk of fractures, Elixhauser said.
Doing so may also make a difference in terms of healthcare dollars. In 2006, the AHRQ study found, osteoporosis-related injuries carried a price tag of $2.4 billion in hospital costs.