PhotoOne of the hazards of aging is falling down. And falls can be dangerous because they can break bones, especially the bones of older people.

If you or a loved one has had a fall recently and broken a bone, it's not something to be ignored. It could signal the onset of osteoporosis.

"A wrist fracture is a warning sign," says Prof. John A. Kanis, president of the International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF). "We urge all adults aged 50 and over who have suffered a wrist or other fragility fracture, to get tested for osteoporosis."

Osteoporosis is a chronic 'silent' disease that causes bones to weaken and become more fragile and breakable. At age 50, up to one in two women and one in five men will go on to suffer a fragility fracture in their lifetimes. Kanis says these fractures can result in pain, disability, loss of quality of life and independence, or even early death.

Older women most at risk

Osteoporosis causes the bones to thin, which makes the more vulnerable to breaks. Risk factors are aging and being female; women are more likely to suffer from osteoporosis than men. Low body weight is also a risk factor.

Unfortunately, there are no symptoms for osteoporosis. You don't know you suffer from it until you fracture a bone. Prevention and treatment include calcium and vitamin D and regular exercise. In some cases your doctor may prescribe medications.

First fracture doubles the risk of more

According to IOF, a first fracture doubles the risk for future fractures.

One in four women who suffer a vertebral (spinal) fracture will experience another fracture within one year.

Half of all hip fractures come from 16 percent of the postmenopausal women with a history of fracture, including wrist fractures.

However, despite the fact that a first fracture is a clear warning sign, only two in ten patients with initial bone breaks get a follow-up test for osteoporosis or falls risk.

"We urge individuals over 50 who have suffered any kind of fragility fracture to insist on testing and, if indicated, treatment for osteoporosis," said Kanis. "This is the best way to reduce the risk of a cascade of future fractures."

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