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How Osteoarthritis Harms Your Bones

How Osteoarthritis Harms Your Bones

If you’re one of the about 27 million Americans suffering from osteoarthritis (OA), you’re probably already taking steps to ease your joint pain and stiffness. But if you’re a woman, you may have one more thing to watch out for:  bone fractures. 

Using data from a 20-year study, researchers at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney, Australia, looked at fracture risk among 2412 women and 1452 men, all older than 45. During the study, 33% of women and 18% of men had at least one broken bone. That rate is normal for older adults.

However, to their surprise, the researchers found that women with OA had a 50%-higher risk of suffering a fracture. Experts have long thought that OA should protect against fractures, because the same factors that lead to OA, such as excess weight, also boost bone mineral density. In this study, though, the fracture risk was highest among women who had normal or slightly low bone density, not those who had osteoporosis.  

The explanation for the hike in risk isn’t clear, but the researchers think falls may have a lot to do with it. People with OA have more falls, likely because joint pain and stiffness make them less mobile and cause them to lose strength and balance. Also, though people with OA may start out with higher bone density, they tend to lose it more quickly as they age, and their bones can have certain weaknesses that a bone density scan can’t see.

3 Ways to Thwart a Break
Try these strategies to reduce pain and decrease your chance of fractures.

Stay active. Gentle exercise, such as swimming, walking or yoga, can maintain your strength and flexibility and ward off bone loss. But be sure to consult your doctor before you start a fitness routine, especially if you already have OA.

Say cheers with a beer. The silicon in beer can actually boost your bone health.

Avoid a fall. Balance training, music therapy classes and easy strength exercises all may help.

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