PORTLAND - A newly-published research paper by Kaiser Permanente's Center for Health Research, showed that when it comes to hip fractures, it's the injury itself, not the patient's age, that makes the condition so risky.
"A lot of people assumed that the older the patient, the higher their risk of dying from a hip fracture," said lead author, Dr. Erin LeBlanc. "It's the hip fracture itself and not just the underlying medical conditions," she said.
For the last 25 years, researchers studied nearly 10,000 women ranging in age from their 60s to their 80s, to determine the risk of dying after a hip fracture. Nearly 1,100 participants suffered from a broken hip.
Across all age groups, the average mortality rate for those who broke their hip was about 17 percent.
"We found that in healthy women over the age of 80, there was actually a three fold risk of dying after hip fracture in the next year," said LeBlanc. "The study also showed that women ages 65 to 69 are five-times more likely to die from a hip fracture," she said.
The study challenged the theory that only the sick and elderly are at risk of dying from a hip fracture. Case in point? Portlander and study participant, Anne Taggard. The 92-year-old has survived two broken hips.
"I broke my right hip seven years ago while going up my front steps," recalled Taggard. "I turned around to say hello to a neighbor who yelled across the street, and I slipped and fell across the steps".
Taggard broke her left hip last year when she slipped on her driveway.
"The fact that (Taggard) has two hip fractures and she's still living at home is remarkable," said LeBlanc. "(This study) tells us that hip fractures are dangerous, and It's really critical that we work hard to prevent hip fractures in the first place," said LeBlanc.
To avoid fractures, LeBlanc suggested women take a calcium supplement, do weight baring exercises and make a few simple changes around the house. She said it's a good idea to keep food on lower shelves to avoid having to reach for it. She also advised removing slippery carpets and cords that can cause someone to trip.
Taggard had some advice of her own -- taking things nice and slow.
"Both times I got hip fractures, I'd made movements that were sudden," she recalled. "Now I try to be very cautious."
LeBlanc also suggested having a bone density scan and taking osteoporosis medication, depending on what your doctor says is right for you.